The Art of Job Search Success

A successful job search is not the haphazard result of a mysterious, mystical process. It is the predictable result of a disciplined, step-by-step process. These are essential to success!

Step One: Know your strengths

You are not selling duties and responsibilities. You are selling success using a set of skills and abilities that are generic in scope. You may be great at improving an accounting, administrative, or IT process, but it’s your ability to analyze that gets you there. It is critical that you identify, clarify, and document success using this skill set.

Step Two: Write an effective resumé

The hardest document you will ever write is your own resumé. This is complexified (I love that word, even if it isn’t a word!) by the fact that everyone on the planet is a resumé expert, no two agree, and the greatest authority of all is someone who just got a job! There are common sense rules for writing a resumé:

  1. Don’t use a template. One of the most commonly used templates makes your contact information so small I get a headache trying to read it. This will not end well.
  1. Don’t write a functional resumé—a style that does not show employment, or heavily truncates it. It makes it easy to hide time spent in prison! No credibility.
  1. Don’t write an objective. No one cares.
  1. Don’t try to tell too big a story. It will be too long and painful to read.
  1. Don’t fill it with an endless repetition of duties and responsibilities.
  1. Do use a font size I can read. Convention dictates that Times New Roman 12 point, or Ariel 11 point (12 for headings) are used for resumes.
  1. Do show success! Success sells; nothing else does. If you’re a data analyst, and I need one, it’s pretty likely that I have at least a fundamental understanding of what you do. What I want to know is, are you any good? Can you make or save me money? Use the results of Step One to build the resume.

Step Three: Choose your targets

To get a great job, you need two things: a list of target organizations and people in them, and a list of people who can get you into them. Organizations: these are companies or organizations that you’d like to find out more about, not necessarily spend the rest of your life with (if you know you want to do that, they should be on the list). Tentative interest works fine. LinkedIn is a good source of people relevant to your company target list. Mention them as people you’d be interested in speaking with. People (second list) are the folks you know, who will refer you to others. Show these people that target list. Remember, you are statistically three people away from talking to someone who could hire you!

Step Four: Learn to network

Networking is not going to everyone you know and asking them to get you a job. Networking is all about developing relationships, and it is those relationships that will produce the job. Once in the new job, you will maintain and increase the network you’ve built, as, like a flowering plant, it will continue to produce if you treat it well.

Step Five: Ace the interview

Employers always, always hire to solve a problem. Your goal in the interview is to convert it to a conversation, find the problem, and, if you want to continue, demonstrate how you have solved that or similar problems before. Do not give power to the hiring manager! Control the interview. Your goal is not to get a job. Your goal is to find someone with the problems you like to solve, develop a relationship, and, if you want, be the solution

Step Six: Follow up

If you leave the interview, sit back and wait for a response, abandon hope! First, send a thank you card within 24 hours—not an email, a card. Interviews are, like networking, about relationships; emails, not so much, and could well be missed. Everyone knows they should do this, but everyone is still rebelling against mom, who made them write thank you letters for birthday and other presents. The card is not about you—it’s about the hiring manager. If possible, the front of the card should reflect the hiring manager’s personality, culture, hobbies, or something of personal interest to that person. This says relationship. A card with “Thank You” on the front says you went to no trouble at all. An email is junk mail.

Second, a day or two later, send a document to the hiring manager that says the things you didn’t think of to say in the interview, and shows or reiterates how you have solved similar problems in the past. Once again, show success—results, not experience. No other candidate will do this. You’ll be a hero!

Step Seven: Know how to negotiate

Americans hate negotiating, and the greatest fear among candidates for employment is that, in trying to negotiate, they’ll cause the employer to withdraw the offer, or at least offend the employer. Many employers know this and are counting on it. I have a good friend with an extensive, high-powered career in human resources, who says, “No one offers you the figure you want. They offer you the figure they want you to accept!” Negotiating is key to success in the job search. If you’re not going to invest in a coach to guide you through the search (though you know you should!), at least invest some time and/or money in learning the strategy and tactics of negotiating. Expertise here will pay itself back many times over!

This is the process that will produce jobs over and over again. It isn’t simple, but it is basic. If you develop and show expertise in these seven areas, I guarantee success! But it doesn’t stop with your getting a job. Now you have to keep it! Or get a better one!

For additional resources on these and other job search/career management topics, check out my other blog posts, or pick up a copy of my book When Can You Start? The Insider’s Guide To Job Search And Career Success.