6 important tips on a successful job search

And what Dad said about baseball

When it came to baseball, my dad used to say, “You won’t get a hit if you leave your bat on your shoulder.” This was his way of saying to try. He also said a big league ball player who bats .333 was considered a very good hitter. “That’s 3 hits out of 10, Bob,” he said.

Here’s the thing, you sure as hell won’t get even close to batting .333 in the job search if you don’t try. Here’s the other thing about the job search; you probably won’t nail every land the jobs for which you apply, but that’s okay. If you interview with 9 companies and get 3 job offers, Dad would say that’s a great batting average.

Try

Dad’s advice on trying wasn’t just about baseball. He was a brilliant man and offered advice on academics, but I didn’t heed what he said as much as I should have. That’s neither here nor there. In the job search you need to try, but more importantly you need to be smart in your search.

Research

The best big league hitters know who they’re batting against. They’ve either faced them many times or they watch film. The ones who’ve faced the pitchers before are more likely to succeed because they know when and how well their opponent can throw a curveball; slider; change-up; or worst yet, a knuckle.

Or they could strike out every time because some pitchers own opposing batters.

Researching a position, company, competition, and even the interviewers is the most underutilized method in the job search. Why? Because it takes grit and the rewards aren’t immediate. Many job seekers don’t see the value in it. But if you don’t do your research, it comes back to bite you in the ass.

You know it and the interviewer/s know it come interview time that you haven’t done your researched. You’re asked simple questions like, “What can you tell me about this position,” or “Why do you want to work for out company.”

You struggle to recite even the simplest requirements of the job or the products and services the company offers. It’s embarrassing for you and the interviewer. It’s like when a ball player swings at a pitch in the dirt and walks back to the dugout with his head hung low.

Apply online

Dad was an excellent baseball coach; my coach, in fact. What made him so great was his strategic mind. Applying online takes a strategic mind. One thing recruiters would say is don’t apply for jobs for which you’re not qualified. It’s a waste of your and their time. This is my first piece of advice.

Not to belabor the point, but if you’re applying for jobs through job boards and company websites, make sure you’ve done your research (first point) and that your resume is tailored to each job and speaks to the employer’s needs.

Additionally, when you tailor your resume, recruiters find it easier in their applicant tracking system (ATS) by entering a Boolean search. Therefore, it’s among the first read. A resume with the proper keywords and density of keywords gets more attention.

Perhaps most important is that a tailored resume will show the employer you understand their needs whether it’s reducing costs, improving processes, or other ways your can help the company. You also should prioritize statements by listing the most relevant experience and accomplishments closer to the top of the resume.

Network

When I ask my clients if they enjoy networking, the majority of them are either uncomfortable doing it or downright hate it. Dad’s other advice about baseball is that the season is long. A great hitter might start the season with a .235 average but by the end of the season is hitting .333.

The thing about networking is that it takes time. There’s an amount of relationship building that needs to take place. For example, here’s the way it might go:

First: ask one of your first-degree LinkedIn connections to introduce you to introduce you to one his first-degree connections. If you’re more of the in-person networker, pick up the phone and ask one of your closest contacts to facilitate a phone call with your target contact.

Second: when an introduction is made, begin a light conversation with said person, while also fitting into your experience and the value you bring to companies. Ask the person if they’d like to have a follow-up correspondence and when you should call them.

Third: after a certain number of conversations, ask if your contact would like to meet for coffee providing they feel safe in this current environment. If they don’t, video conferencing is always an option.

Fourth: by this time you and your new contact are on the same page in terms of the mutual value you and they can provide. It’s time to make “the ask” for an informational meeting where you can discuss their company and the role you’re seeking.

Or you might want to indicate through your research that you see the possibility of making a contribution to their company. If the former isn’t possible, always try to leave the conversation with another person with whom you can speak.

Outcome: after developing a network of decision makers or strong allies, when jobs are developing in companies, you’ll be one of the first to know. Or if a job is advertised, you could have your resume delivered to the hiring manager of the department for which you want to work.

Note: it might take more conversations before you’re comfortable making the ask. Some believe it takes 7 points of contact before a relationship is truly established.

Or, networking can be as simple as handing your resume to your neighbor, who hands it to the hiring manager of the department for which you want to work, many talks ensue, you’re interviewed for the job, and you’re hired.

This happened to a customer of mine who told me he hadn’t networked to get the job. I didn’t want to bust his bubble and tell him he had. Networking comes in many shapes and forms.

Prepare for the interview

This leads us back to research and a bit of networking if you can. My dad got me good one time. It was when the Russian national hockey team came to play our hockey teams. Dad bet me five dollars that the Russians would beat the New York Rangers–the first team they met.

When I watched the game and saw the massacre, Dad laughed at me saying he had heard about the victory on the radio before the game was televised. He had done his research…in a way. But this is how you will have a leg up on the competition who, for the most part, won’t do their research.

You can research the position by reading the job ad. You can research the company by going to their website. And you can research the competition by going to their website and Glassdoor. But a far better way to research the aforementioned is by talking with someone who works for the company. Leading us back to networking.

Practice hard. Great baseball players will practice with the team, of course, but they’ll also practice on their own, taking hundreds of additional at-bats and fielding ground balls. Along with researching the position and company, practice answering the questions you think interviewers will ask.

Another area you’ll need to prep for is your background and other important factors when being interviewed via video. What is an appropriate background, you might wonder? Anything that doesn’t distract the interviewer. A bookshelf or wall with tasteful paintings are fine. Also make sure the lighting is right.

Land the job; do well in the interview

“Teams win when batting, fielding, and most importantly pitching are doing well,” Dad would say. “Teams must have all three.” Dad also said errors will be the downfall of a team. “Mental errors are a killer.”

Try hard to get all in place and don’t make mental errors. This can sum it up when it comes to interviews. This means your interview road started with research. Smart job seekers will do anywhere between four to 10 hours of research.

Let’s touch lightly on first impression. As interviews are being held in person and via video platforms, eye contact is essential. Look at the camera, not the interviewers’ eyes. Smile as much as you can without overdoing it. In other words, don’t come across as fake.

You’ll be asked three types of questions, traditional, and behavioral-based. Technical questions follow under traditional types. A question like, “Why did you leave your last job?” Is also traditional.

Note: most traditional questions are predictable; you should know the answers for them before arriving at the interview.

Situational questions are a little more difficult, as they make you think of how you would solve a particular situation, such as, “What would you do if two of your employees were having a dispute?” You should answer this one successfully if you’ve read the job ad and know questions about leadership will be asked.

Behavioral-based questions are asked because interviewers believe how you behaved in the past is a true predictor of how you’ll behave in the future. They’re also asked to measure your emotional intelligence.

An example of a behavioral-based question is, “Tell me about a time when you came across two of your employees having a dispute.” See the difference between this and the situational question? To answer this question successfully you must have experienced this situation.

You also have to have your S.T.A.R story ready. Explain the situation, your task in the situation, the actions you took to solve the situation, and the final result/s.


Don’t settle

Know the kind of company for which you want to work

Earlier I said batting .330 in the job search and landing only 3 out of 10 jobs for which you apply is pretty damn good. Well, it’s only good if you land the ones you desire.

Go after companies that support your values. Don’t simply apply for jobs that are advertised–that’s reacting. Reach out to the ones for which you want to work, which brings us back to research and networking. Identify those companies and network your way into talking with people in those companies.

Photo by Michael Morse on Pexels.com

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