Most job seekers make the mistake of thinking they are ready to apply for a job simply because they need one. Yet, nothing is more frustrating to a hiring manager than an unprepared candidate. We expect that you, as the job seeker, are doing everything in your power to present your best face during your job search, and any little thing you do wrong makes us worry, “Gee, if this is your best impression, how much worse does it get when you’ve been on the job for a year?”
You can and should avoid this reaction by being polished and prepared, knowing yourself and your experience, and being the best job candidate you can be.
Begin with a Skills, Experiences and Interests Assessment
Before you start your job search, make sure you know what you want to do and what you are qualified to do, often totally different things. What kinds of skills are in your toolbox? Where did you collect the experiences you will bring to your next job? What do you want to do, and what would you do if you could do anything? Each of these answers is important to determine what type of job you should be seeking.
It is all right to switch tracks and apply for jobs for which you are completely inexperienced. In fact, a unique and often life-altering experience volunteering or in a community service program is often the perfect time to make such a change. Just make sure that the skills you have gathered are transferable to the new position or that the level of position you seek is appropriate to the experience you have on your resume.
Reform Your Resume
Your resume is your calling card, your marketing material, your opportunity to interest total strangers in the skills and experiences you can bring to their organization. Simply put, there is absolutely nothing more important than your resume in your job search. After you have determined the direction your job search will take, spend a great deal of time perfecting your resume before sending it out to the world at large.
There are three basic steps to a well-written resume. First, ensure that you include both the everyday tasks as well as the overall changes, modified by action verbs, brought about because of your work. Indicating only the menial daily activities will not help your career progress to higher levels. Second, be concise, clear and use bullets to highlight accomplishments that wouldn’t have been achieved without you. Finally, proofread your resume until you can’t stand looking at it anymore. Then, have someone else read it.
If you feel like you are applying over and over for jobs that seem just perfect for you but you aren’t getting calls for interviews, then you can only point to your resume as the problem. The effort you spend in writing and rewriting will make you both a better job seeker and interviewer. Consider it time well spent.
Start Your Networking
Throughout each day of your tenure volunteering or in a community service program and during any work/college experience or prior community service, you encountered scores of valuable resources that should be tapped during your job search. These resources may be individuals, networking associations, or alumni groups, which may provide precious linkages to otherwise unknown opportunities. Begin by beating the bushes and taking advantages of these relationships and resources.
Polish Your Interviewing Skills
Clean your best suit, get a haircut and start thinking about answers you might give to questions such as “What are your weaknesses?” and “What would be the first three things you would do if we gave you this job?”
While your best odds are honesty, an even safer bet is preparation. By expecting the questions – think about what questions you’ve gotten in the past and where you’ve run into trouble in prior interviews – you can come across more polished and professional than if you just walk in and wing it. Practice interviews with friends, mentors, job counselors or consultants, and you will walk into an interview calmer, cooler and more in control than you might otherwise.
Make sure you collect business cards from or make notes of the people you interact with during the course of a job search. Send thank you notes and, if appropriate, enclose an additional copy of your resume. A thank you note is a perfect opportunity to thank an interviewer for spending time with you, and to remind that interviewer of your strengths (or just add information that you might have forgotten about during the meeting). Better still, thank you notes sent to networking contacts are not only surprising, but keep you and your job search fresh in their minds for longer.