20 steps to take during your job search

How should the job search be conducted? Everyone has their own idea. In this article, I present my idea of the steps job seekers should take to secure a rewarding job. Hint, I don’t feel that writing/updating your résumé is the first step. I think there are variables to consider. 

job seeker balck and white

One thing for sure is that no two job seekers are alike; thus, no two job searches are alike. How you conduct your search is going to be different than the next person, so you might skip some of these steps or embrace all of them.

1. Forgive yourself

If you haven’t already forgiven yourself for being laid off, let go, or forced to quit, it’s not too late. You may be experiencing guilt, self-doubt, anger, and despondency to name a few. When I was laid off from marketing, I remember going through all of the aforementioned feelings. Now I think it was all wasted energy.

If you are having a difficult time forgiving yourself, considering seeing a therapist, especially if these destructive feelings are hindering your job search. Most health insurance policies cover mental health. Look into the health insurance you or your spouse is purchasing.

2. Take a short break

I advise a few days off after you’ve lost your job. You need time to get your head straight. Your emotions will be frazzled. There’s also taking care of your finances, e.g., applying for unemployment. You may want to catch up on medical appointments that you’ve put off because your were too busy while working.

However, if you’re newly unemployed, now is not the time to take a three-month vacation with severance your company gave you or vacation time you’ve accumulated. This will put you behind the eight-ball in terms of getting into the job search and showing a gap on your résumé.

3. Dive into your job search with gusto

Now that your break is over, it’s time to put a concerted effort into your job search. Determine how you’re going to conduct your job search. Make a plan or have someone help you create a sound plan for your search. Many job seekers make the mistake of searching for work online as their only means.

I advise my clients that the methods of searching for work that are most successful from best to worst are: face-to-face networking, attending professional affiliations, utilizing a recruiter or staffing agency, combining LinkedIn with face-to-face networking, and using job boards. You don’t have to use all of these methods, as you don’t want to spread yourself thin.

4. Let others know you’re out of work

As simple as this sounds, plenty of job seekers are reluctant to tell their friends, neighbors, relative, former colleagues, etc., that they’re out of work. Not only should you not feel embarrassed, you are missing opportunities to network.

Most people understand that people sometimes lose their job. It’s likely they have also lost their job. It’s a known fact that people want to help you, so let them. Give them the opportunity to feel good about themselves for helping you. Look at it this way.

5. Be good to yourself

You’ve heard of work/life balance. I believe there’s also job-search/life balance. In other words, don’t burn out during your job search. In a recent job club meeting, I asked the members what they did during the Christmas holiday. Many of them talked about making connections with valuable recruiters.

But the ones who also impressed me were the ones who said they took some time off to decompress, sprinkled in with some job searching activities. You must remember that there are other important aspects of your life, such as family, friends, and events that you otherwise would have put off.

6. Don’t play the numbers game

At times I have to remind job seekers of this destructive practice, where they will say, “In a month I’ll have been out of work for more than a year.” Obsessing over the time you’ve been out of work will hurt your morale and, therefore, your job search.

Everyone’s situation is different. Your friend who is searching for an entry-level position will most likely land a job faster than you, if you’re looking for executive-level roles. In general, the average time it takes to find a job is 26 days, but again this depends on level of position and demand for your position.

7Know thyself

It’s important to possess self-awareness, if you want to conduct your job search effectively. This means thinking about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What does this spell? SWOT. That’s right, do a SWOT analysis on yourself.

I have my attendees do a partial SWOT analysis in some of my workshops. I tell them to do a complete one on their own. You should write down 10 or more strengths, five weaknesses, three opportunities, and three threats. This will give you a better sense of what you can capitalize on and areas you need to overcome.

8. Take time to think about what you really want to do

All too often job seekers will settle for the next job that comes along. Sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t. This stage in your life is a great time to reflect on what will make you happy.

If it’s a career change, think about how your transferable skills can make the transition easier, despite not having all the job-related skills. One woman I worked with had previously worked for Hewlett Packard in marketing. She joined our career center as a grant writer. Eventually she became the director of our Workforce Investment Board.

This article points out various self-assessments you can take to determine your interest.

9. Conduct some labor market research (LMR)

Now, you need to gather LMI on job availability, determining which skills are in high demand, and what salaries employers are offering.  One site that gives you a broad sense of your value in the labor market is Salary.com.

But the best way to gather LMI is by speaking with people in the know, who might include other job seekers or people who will grant you networking meetings, better known as informational interviews.

10. Create a list of companies for which you’d like to work

This is difficult for many people. The sharp job seekers understand the value of keeping a going list of 10 to 15 companies they research. This is also part of your LMR. Your research can tell you which companies are in growth or decline.

You also should identify important players in the companies, hiring managers, directors, VP, CEOs, etc. LinkedIn is ideal for identifying key players in your target companies. Networking is even better, providing you have the right connections.

11. Write your résumé and LinkedIn profile

Now it’s time to write your résumé. When others jump immediately to their résumé and LinkedIn profile, they’re flying blindly. They haven’t self-reflected, thought about what they want to do, and conducted their LMR.

To write your résumé right, you’ll write a tailored résumé for each job you can. A one-fits-all résumé won’t do it; it certainly won’t pass the applicant tracking system (ATS). Employers don’t want to see a grocery list of duties; they want to see relevant, quantified accomplishments.

Read this article to learn more about how to write your LinkedIn profile.

12. Networking is still your best method of looking for work

Approach connections who work for your target companies or people who know people who work for your target companies. Many job seekers have great success using LinkedIn to make connections at desired companies.

I strongly encourage my clients to attend professional association events, where they can network with people who are currently working. Those who are working might know of opportunities for you, or at the very least provide you with some sage advice. To find an association, Google your industry/occupation and your location. Here’s one I found for marketing.

15. Research, research, research

This part of your job search can’t be emphasized enough. One complaint I hear from hiring authorities is the lack of research candidates do. One hiring manager told me a person came to an interview and told the group that he was happy to be invited to (Company X), but he mistakenly called their company by the wrong name. Oops.

Be sure to research the position, company, industry, and even the people conducting the interview. Going to the company’s website is fine, but dig a little deeper. Read press releases and talk with people who work for the company at hand. One figure said 40% of candidates do one to five minutes of research before the interview.

14. Be prepared for tools employers are using, such as Applicant tracking systems (ATS)

The ATS eliminates approximately 75 percent of the applicants for a single job. It is a godsend for recruiters and HR, who are overburdened with résumés to read. However, for job seekers, it’s an impediment.

To be among the 25 percent that pass the ATS, you’ll have to write a résumé that is keyword rich. Unfortunately many candidates don’t know about the ATS and don’t optimize their résumés. Your best bet is to write keyword-rich résumés that are tailored to each job.

Jon Shields of www.jobscan.co explains the ATS in great detail in this post.

15. Pre-employment aptitude and personality tests

Employers have come to rely on aptitude and personality tests that can determine the candidates who’ll advance in the hiring process. Some employers will swear by them, believing that the software can do a better job of screening individuals than their own HR and recruiter.

Employers use pre-employment tests because they are objective and fair across the board—each candidate answers the same questions—and they’re a good indicator of job-related skills. These tests also measure character traits like integrity, cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, etc.

This article talks about the most common types of pre-employment tests.

16. Telephone Interviews

Hardly new, the telephone interview is typically the first type of interview you will encounter to get to the face-to-face interview. The interviewer has two main objectives: getting your salary requirement and determining if you have the job-related skills to do the job.

However, you need to expect not only the aforementioned questions, but more difficult questions, such as situational and behavioral-based. Telephone interviews have also become more numerous. It’s not uncommon for someone to participate in three or more telephone interviews before getting to an in-person interview.

17. Skype interviews

Skype interviews are common these days. Employers use them to save time and, ultimately, money. As well, interviewers get to see your facial expressions and body language. They are akin to in-person interviews, save for the fact that candidates aren’t invited to the company. This means candidates must nail the following areas:

  1. Stellar content and demonstrated enthusiasm through your answers and body language.
  2. Professional attire. Dress as though you’re going to a face-to-face interview.
  3. All the mechanics are in check, such as lighting, sound, and background.
  4. Look at the webcam, not at the interviewer/s. Looking at them will make it seem like you’re not making eye contact.

Skype interviews may, in fact, be the final interview, which makes it even more dire for job candidates to be prepared for them. This is particularly true if interviewers are situated all over the world.

18. Video interviews

Job candidates are given a number of questions to answer and are timed during the session. At no point do they see the interviewer/s, unlike a Skype interview. My clients who have participated in video interviews say it’s like talking to a wall.

This might be a bit unnerving, but don’t let it rattle you. Have you ever answered interview questions while looking in the mirror? Think of it this way and you’ll be fine. One more thing, look at your computer’s webcam while answering the questions, just as you would for a Skype interview.

Matthew Kosinski from www.recruiter.com. rates the top five video interview platforms in this post.

19. Finally you make it to the big ball, the interview

Chances are you will have to interview in person with companies multiple times. Employers are being very selective because hiring the wrong person can lead to loss in money, time, and possibly customers. For this reason, you need to present your best self. First impressions do matter.

More to the point, the content of your answers need to answer one question, “What value can you bring to the employer?” Your experience and accomplishments have been stated in your written communications and during pre-interviews, but all needs to be reiterated while talking with interviewers.

Read this seven-part series on Nailing the interview process.

20. It’s not over until you follow up

All your good work goes to waste if you don’t follow up after a networking event; informational meeting; being invited to join someone’s LinkedIn network; and, of course an interview.

A thank you note is required after an interview. Not just a form note, but a unique note for each person with whom you interviewed. You had a group interview with four people, you send four separate notes. Try to make each special by mentioning a point of interest discussed during the interview. Yes, email is preferred.


One more: it’s never too late to volunteer

Look, I’m not trying to sell you out. It’s a proven fact that volunteering is an effective way to land a job. Consider these four reasons:

  1. You improve your skills or gain new ones. For example, you’re a webmaster and volunteer to revamp an organization’s website to learn ColdFusion.
  2. It is a great way to network. If you volunteer in the proper organization, you can make connections with vendors, partners, customers, and others in your industry.
  3. You’ll feel more productive. It’s far better than sitting at your computer for six hours a day applying online. As I tell my clients, get out of your house!
  4. It’s a great way to pad your résumé. Volunteerism is work, so why not include it in your Experience section.

Photo: Flickr, worldentertainments center

4 thoughts on “20 steps to take during your job search

  1. George Truell

    Terrific article Bob, particularly like leading off with “Forgive Yourself”. A lot of candidates burn great potential leads because they haven’t completed this step yet and it shows.

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  2. Leonard Reitz

    Bob this is a great article that is to the point on each point. No reason for anyone to misunderstand. I am one of the leaders of an area job group that freely has helped job seekers for 10 years+. Your #3 is our primary issue here. I can say if people will just follow your 20 here they will (not maybe) get re-hired. Keep it up Bob.

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Thanks, Leonard. I’m not sure if you agree or disagree with #3, as you call it an issue. Either way, once you’re straight in your head, I believe being committed to the job search is necessary. I also believe that we can’t be consumed with the search to the point where you burn out.

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