Job Search

Finding the Best Job

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius

Finding the best job is a full time job – treat it like a job!

The job search will require skills different than the skills required by the job you are seeking.  Recognize this difference and prepare yourself.   You must develop skills necessary to successfully complete the following phases of your job search.

  • Research the job market to find job openings that best match your goals and objectives. 
  • Create and market your sales document (resume), and build a network of contacts for assistance to get the first interview.  
  • Sell your talents, skills, and achievements in each interview to get the next interview. 
  • Conduct negotiations to achieve the best deal for you and your future employer.  

Remember, a successful job search will require you to work full time each day.  Make your daily list of action tasks and manage your time to complete each task.

 The job search is really a positive experience because the new skills you develop will enhance your performance in future jobs.  In our rapidly changing work environment you may be required to perform the job search a number of times during your career.  Nothing is permanent.

Communications

Communications skills are the foundation of a successful job search.  If you cannot effectively communicate, you will have great difficulty in finding the best job.

 Speaking skills are required to network with friends and colleagues, participate in phone and personal interviews, interview follow up calls, and negotiations.  Writing skills are required to create your sales documents such as resumes, cover letters, thank you notes, follow up letters, etc.  Effective body language communication during interviews, discussions, lunches, dinners, etc is important. 

 Take an inventory of your communication skills and look for weaknesses and work to improve them.  Don’t hesitate to get assistance to develop those skills required for a successful job search campaign.   Above all, your communications must be honest and genuine.  Your communications must accurately represent you.  Getting a job under false pretenses leads to job failure.

 Job Search Objectives

 Focus on the following “Big Picture” objectives as you conduct your job search.

  • The objective of marketing and networking is to identify a available jobs.
  • The objective of the cover letter and resume is to get an interview.
  • The objective of an interview is to get the next interview.
  • The objective of successful interws is a job offer.
  • The objective of negotiations is a win-win for employer and employee.

Keeping the big picture in mind will help you achieve your goals and not waste time and effort in your job search activities. 

Marketing your skills

Before you can sell something you must define what you are selling in a form that will make it attractive to the prospective buyer.  Recognize that you are selling are your skills, experience, and abilities.    

Start by making a laundry list of your skills, experience, and abilities.  Be sure to list everything that you have accomplished because everything is job related.  Each item on the list must be a short action statement.  All statements of accomplishments must begin with an action words.  Here are some examples.

·       Led project team to successfully implement the ABC system

·       Created Excel spreadsheet to manage my personal budget

 ·       Earned Bachelor of Science degree at XYZ University

 ·       Worked as an intern with ABC company for three summers

 ·       Saved ABC company $50,000 with scrap control system

 ·       Earned Eagle scout level in Boy Scouts

 ·       Served as finance chairman for a large church

Be specific in stating your accomplishments.  Be sure to quantify your accomplishments where possible.  Your prospective employer is looking for persons to achieve similar savings and efficiencies for their organization.  Specific demonstrated accomplishments will increase your chances of getting an interview.

Building Your Resume

Once you have completed your laundry list you are ready to build your resume.  The resume is you most important sales document in your job search.  A resume is created by organizing your laundry list of skills, abilities, and accomplishments into a good sales document.  But always remember – the purpose of the resume is to get an interview.  There will likely be competition for each available job.  A good job search will result in the submission of at least 100 resumes from prospective candidates.  Be creative and think about how can make your resume stand out from the crowd.

Writing your resume is like writing a news story.  A good news story will grab your attention and then keep your interest or you will quickly go to the next news story.  Your resume will only get fifteen to thirty seconds time from the reader so it must be constructed to grab the reader’s attention and keep their interest or they will cast it aside and quickly go to the next resume.  A good news story begins out with a headline to get your attention.  The first statement of a news story tells the important facts of the story and the remainder of the story provides additional details telling who, what, why, where, when, and how.  The resume tells who you are, what you have accomplished, and when, where, and how you accomplished it.  It should focus on your desired profession.

Many resume examples and writing tips can be found on internet sites using a search engine to search on ‘resume’.   The resume should consist of the following sections:

 ·       Tell the reader how to contact you – your name, address, phone, and email address. 

 ·       The headline to grab the reader’s attention.  Most of your resume tells about your past, but the headline must also tell state you expect to achieve in the future.  The headline is a statement that summarizes your job objectives and the skills, experienced you have to offer the employer, and what you want to accomplish.  Use action words such as “experienced”, “aggressive”, “results oriented”, “hard working”, etc. 

 ·       A list of your most impressive experience, skills and accomplishments to hold the readers attention.  Go back to your laundry list of skills, experience and accomplishments.  Be sure to pick out the items with quantitative results.  If the employer is going to invest in you he is looking for something in return.  Be sure to include interpersonal skills.

 ·       A list of your work history in descending order by date.  For each job list the job, responsibility, start and stop date, and accomplishments.  Again, the accomplishments should be short statements beginning with an action verb.  Make it action oriented and interesting.  Do not list salary history or salary requirements.  Listing salaries may unfairly disqualify you before you have had an opportunity to discuss the position. 

 ·       A list of your education and training.  Include formal degrees completed with the educational institution.  List all professional training courses completed.  Make the list in descending order by date.

 ·       A list of your hobbies and personal interests.  Something to tell the reader about your interests outside of work.

 ·       A list of your personal associations and accomplishments.  You may have no formal management experience, but if you have coached a little league team you can demonstrate leadership experience.

 ·        A statement on references.  Always state that references are available on request.  You can provide a specific list of references when you receive a response to your resume. 

As a general rule, your resume should not exceed two pages, be brief and to the point.  A reader with a stack of 100 resumes is looking for specifics that match the position and will not take the time to search through a lot of prose to find them.  But I have found one exception to this rule.  People in education, who are accustomed to creating and reading long reports, will be looking for a longer resume with more detail in order to know more about you.  Also, a resume submitted to an educational institution should list formal education before accomplishments because the level of education is usually a key requirement.

If you have skill levels in more than one profession, create a different resume for each skill level.  When applying for a job, one size does not fit all.  Your headline should emphasize that skill level and select those skills that support the selected profession.

Remember, the purpose of the resume is to get you an interview.  The resume is the most important sales document in your job search.  Take a lot of time on it.  Keep reviewing and revising it as you get new ideas.  Have your family, friends, and associates review it.  Put yourself in the prospective employer’s shoes and read your resume.  If it is not interesting to you, it will not be interesting to your prospective employer.

Understanding the Job Market

Now that you have defined what you have to sell, you must find a customer (employer) and close the sale.  Research the current job market.  Where do you want to live – define your geographic preference.  As a general rule, a smaller geographic search area will offer fewer job opportunities.  You may need to expand your search if your initial search efforts are unsuccessful.

Identify job search research sources.  Family, friends, and associates are good sources.  Newspapers are also a good source.  Read the want ads to identify jobs that may fit your skills.  The internet is a powerful job search resource tool.  Select an internet search engine and search on the statement, ‘job search’.  You will see a list of specific job search engines set up to help you to easily look through a data base of thousands of jobs.  The search engines ask you to enter search parameters such as location, industry, and job category to narrow your search.  Take some time to browse through their data base job inventory and relate it to your skills inventory.  Try different search parameters to get a better feel for the job market.  Use this data to decide how to most effectively conduct your job search.

As you conduct job market research go back and review your resume.  Does your resume match available jobs?  If not, revise your resume.  You will go through the research and revision cycle many times.

The Sales Campaign

Once you have identified potential employers, you are ready to begin the sales campaign.   Conduct your sales campaign with a positive attitude, determination, and persistence.  You will get many “no’s” but remember that you only need to make one “yes” to get a job.  Don’t get discouraged – be patient and proactive.  Use your time effectively by planning a full day’s work each day.  Use the information from your job market research to target search activities and focus on those areas most likely to lead to a job.  But don’t limit your search to former careers.  Finding a new job may be an opportunity to start a new career.

Statistics show that 85% to 90% of the jobs are found through networking, so most of your time should be dedicated to networking.  Don’t be shy.  Tell everyone that you talk to that you are looking for a job.  I once met a gentleman at a community breakfast and, after introducing ourselves, he told me that he was new to the community and his wife was an experienced programmer and looking for a job.  It so happened that I was starting a systems conversion project and I hired his wife for the project.  After the project was successfully completed, she became a full time employee and is now the director of the IT department.  Talk to everyone.  You never know who will be looking for help.

Outplacement and employment firms will teach you a more formal approach to networking.  Start by making a list of everyone that you know – family, friends, service club members, social club members, church members, etc.  Select people from the list and ask to meet with them to assist you with your job search.  When you meet with them give them a copy of your resume and talk about your job search campaign.   Ask them if the know of anyone who may be looking for someone with your skills.  Ask them to suggest another person that you may contact.  It is important that you do not ask them for a job, but ask for help in expanding your network.  The objective is to build your network larger and larger until you make a contact with someone who is hiring.  You will find that you will learn something from each meeting that will be of value to you in your search campaign.  Try to schedule at least one meeting each day.

Social networking web sites can also be important to your job search.  Web sites, such as linkedin.com are used to exchange information, ideas, and opportunities.  You may also find contacts in specific industries and professions.

Volunteerism is an excellent networking strategy.  Demonstrating your skills through volunteer activities automatically expands your network.  You can volunteer for a non profit organization or even a potential employer.  A volunteer job will also sharpen your current skills and even provide an opportunity to develop new skills. 

Internship is an effective networking approach for students.  Students who intern with companies during the summer or in coop plans have the opportunity to demonstrate their professional and interpersonal skills for a prospective employer.  I know of several students whose intern work during their education resulted in a good job waiting for them after graduation.

Networking contacts and meetings are your first priority in scheduling your daily work.  Pursue other search activities between networking activities.   Research available jobs listed in ads in newspapers and professional journals and internet job search engines.  Post your resume on job-search web sites such as Monster.com, Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, Careerbuilder.com, etc.

As you pursue your campaign each day, you will find a number of job postings that fit your skills and abilities.  Apply to each job posting with a cover letter and resume – paper or electronic.  The cover letter is your personal introduction and must be customized to the job.  It must show how your skills fit each requirement listed is the ad – use their language and terms.  As each cover letter is tailored to the job, you may also tailor your resume to fit the job.  Remember that your objective is to make you stand out above the other applicants.  Respond to several job postings each day.

Remember, the objective of this phase of your sales campaign is to get an interview.

The First Interview

During your sales campaign you have been like the fisherman continually casting your line in the water.  When you receive the call for the first interview, you have gotten a strike.  Your must now reel in the fish.  Don’t let the fish get off the hook.  The objective of the first interview is to get the next interview.   Preparation and performance are key successes factors in getting the next interview

Prepare for the interview by finding out all you can about your prospective employer.  Research their web site.  Talk to a current employee if possible.  Try to get a feel if you would like to work for this organization.  Make a list of questions to ask in the interview.  Answers to your questions during the interview will help you decide whether to continue to reel in or release the fish.

Anticipate questions you may be asked during the interview.  Prepare and rehearse your answers.  You will always get the “Tell us about yourself?” question.  You should prepare a one minute summary of your work objectives, skills, abilities, and experience.  Rehearse this speech several times.  Make it interesting.  The interviewer will usually follow up with more specific questions about your summary presentation.  Other questions that may be asked are:

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What can you contribute to our organization?
  • Where would you like to be five years from now?
  • What is the last book that you read?
  • What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
  • What are your salary requirements?

Prepare and rehearse answers to these questions.  Again, do not respond specifically to questions of salary requirements.  Simply say your salary requirements are negotiable depending on the opportunities and responsibilities of the position.  Defer the subject of salary for negotiations after you have received an offer.

Plan your interview performance.  First impressions are critical.  I have interviewed many job candidates over the last forty years and discussed the interview process with other hiring managers.  Everyone agrees that the “no” can come immediately but the “yes” takes longer.  Creating a poor first impression may disqualify you regardless of your skills and abilities.

If the first interview is by phone, make sure your tone of voice and upbeat attitude will create a good impression.  Be pleasant and interesting in your conversation.  For in person interviews, dress formal and be on time.  Take copies of your resume with you.  You should attach it to the application you to fill out.  Greet the interviewer with a strong handshake and look the interviewer in the eye when speaking.  Eye contact is a must during any interview.

Do not complain or be negative during the interview.  Although it may make you feel better to unload about a bad experience with a previous supervisor, coworker, professor, etc., the interviewer may label you as a negative person and a complainer and not the type of person they want in their organization.  Be professional, upbeat, and positive.  Show that you will be a positive contributor to their organization.

The first interview may be with the person with hiring authority but it will more likely be with members of an interview screening team – in this case you may talk with one to three persons.  Their purpose is to get to know you well enough to determine whether they want to keep you in the hiring process.  Your purpose is to get to know them and their organization well enough to determine whether you want to continue the hiring process.  Again, be upbeat, positive and genuine.  Answer all questions completely and honestly.  Intersperse your prepared questions into the discussion.  Show a sincere interest in the interviewer(s) and their organization.  The most frequent comments from the interviewers in reviewing a positive interview are “The candidate is easy to talk to”, “I really enjoyed talking to the candidate”, or “It was really a good conversation.”

The Interview Follow Up

Do a “Monday morning quarterback process” on the interview.  Evaluate your performance and make notes.  Did you feel comfortable during the interview?  Did you present yourself effectively?  How did you answer the questions?  Did you receive answers to your questions?  Review your notes and use them to improve your performance on the next interviews.  Your interview skills will improve with each interview and you will become more comfortable with the process.  You will know what to expect and how to respond.

After the interview review process, continue to work to get the next interview – if you want to pursue the position.  Send a thank you note to the interviewers.  The handwritten note is the most effective but an email will also convey your thoughts.  Follow up with a weekly contact, phone or email, until you receive a “no” or an offer of another interview.  Plan each follow up contact.  Reaffirm your interest in the position.  Mention an additional unique skill that qualifies you for the job.  Ask an additional question about the organization.  Show your enthusiasm and interest in the position.  Follow up persistence will positively set you apart from other candidates.

The Next Interview(s)

The next interview may be with other members of the interview team.  The purpose is for the team to compare notes to select finalists for the position.  In this case, it will essentially be a repeat of the first interview.  Focus on your preparation, performance, and follow up.

After one to three interviews, you will become a finalist.  Three finalists are usually picked for a position if there is a good candidate pool.  The finalists will go through and extensive interview process with organization management and persons who will work with the new hire.

Prepare for this interview by learning as much as you can about each member of the management team, their responsibilities in the organization, and how your job will serve them.  Again, list possible questions they may ask and rehearse your answers.  List questions to ask of them to show you are interested and have an understanding of their organization.  Follow up with thank you notes with each interviewer.

You will eventually get the final interview with the hiring authority who will offer you the job.  The job offer starts the negotiation phase.

Negotiations

A successful negotiation results in a win – win for both parties.  During the discussion be relaxed, friendly, calm, in control, and communicate clearly.  Do no be angry or draw lines in the sand.  Be prepared to walk away if you do not get a fair offer.  Consider both cash and non cash benefits as a part of the total package.

But there are several points that will strengthen your negotiating position.  You have sold yourself successfully in the interviews by demonstrating your worth to the organization.  You have been successful in receiving offers from more that one organization.  You have studied and can intelligently discuss the salary and benefit market. 

Prepare yourself to negotiate salary by researching the average salary of similar positions by size of organization and geographic area.  Several salary survey reports can be found on the internet with a search on ‘salary surveys’.  Study these reports and determine a fair salary for your skills and experience. 

Organizations normally assign salary ranges to each position.  They will review your skills and experience and offer a salary as low as possible in the range.  If their offer is below the fair salary established by your research, present these facts and ask for a higher salary.  Remember, a negotiated increase of $1000 per year is an increase of $1000 for each year you work.  Also, once you are hired at a certain salary, there is usually a maximum annual increase permitted by the organization.  If you start from a higher base, you will receive higher increases in future years.

Review benefits such as medical, dental, disability, life insurance, tuition reimbursement, vacation, retirement, etc.  Study the benefits offered by the organization and determine if they fit your needs.  Compare it to your needs and be prepared to ask for adjustments.

After the discussions are complete, make the decision to accept or reject the offer.

Job Acceptance

Acceptance of a job is the end of your formal job search sales campaign.  

But until you accept the job, all phases of your campaign must continue.  Do not stop researching the job market sending out resumes with cover letters to respond to job openings, even though you have an interview.  Do not hesitate to schedule interviews with more than one organization.  Keep all options open until you accept a job.  After all, you are trying to find the best job.

But after the job is accepted, stop the research, resumes, phone calls, and networking.  However, you should keep your networking file, whether it is a Rolidex, spreadsheet, or paper file.  Continue to maintain your network file and keep it up to date.  Although the job search is officially over, you may need to conduct another job search campaign in the future.  Maintaining a current network file will enable you to quickly start a new job search campaign.

Indeed, finding the best job was a full time job and you were successful by treating it like a job.  During the job search process you have developed many skills valuable to your future job performance.  You now must switch your focus, energy, and enthusiasm to be successful in your new job.

Glen W. Turney
June 6, 2013