Gaming the Job Search System
Tips for Finding Work – Recession or Not
A friend of mine was laid off from his job of 10 years in October of 2009. After taking a month to recover from the shock, he’s spent the last 16 months sitting behind his computer checking job boards and sending out resumes. That’s not all bad; but it’s definitely not the winning formula to securing a job during what is turning out to be the “era of the jobless.”
Looking for a job is an entirely new ballgame these days. With 9% of Americans unemployed, there are approximately 2.5 million jobs available for the 13.9 million people officially unemployed, according to the New York Times. So you do the math! For every available job, think of the thousands vying for it! That means you’re up against an army of other people for each job to which you apply.
With that in mind, the key to getting a job is accepting that you need to market and sell yourself. So what’s a person to do? First, let me share with you that I’ve been in the unemployment boat, and it isn’t fun. However, I spent more than 20 years as an executive with hiring and firing power, so I know what most HR managers need to see from an applicant. The following punch list will give you a game plan. In later articles, I’ll expand on them.
· Resume Building – Construct two separate resumes. You will need a universal or one-page version and an interview (expanded two-page) version. Make sure that you include what your career goals are and emphasize all the skills, talents and tools you possess. These should appear right at the top, after your name and contact information. Be sure to have a resume specialist critique them to help you improve your strengths and restrict your weaknesses. This is imperative. Your resume can make or break you. Obviously, use the universal resume in your marketing efforts and save the expanded one for the interview. A Word of Caution: It’s a smart move to research prospective organizations and slightly modify your resume to specifically address the needs and wants of each potential employer. A lot of work, but worth it.
· Cover/Marketing Letter – Create a customized cover letter for every prospective employer. Forget about mass mail-merged letters. Don’t send out generic form letters. Make sure you’ve done enough research about each prospective organization that you can easily tailor the letter to the specific position.
· Create a Web site – Yep. It’s a digital world. Include an overview of your skills—let your personality shine through. Provide links to your two resumes, testimonials from former employers and business associates, samples of your work (if applicable) and PDF links to your scanned letters of reference as well as a list of references. If you are concerned about privacy, create a private or secure Web site that can only be accessed with a password. In your cover/marketing letter, always include the link to your Web site with an explanation of what is included there. Make it easy for them to have all the information about you at their fingertips. This will really set you apart from the pack.
· This is worth repeating: don’t send out mass mailings or generic correspondence – customize everything, particularly cover letters and your resume to your targeted employer. That means researching the company to which you are applying.
· Search Recruiters and Develop Relationships with them. Recruiters are looking for good people to fill positions for their clients. Be helpful. Become a resource for them. Use your rolodex and offer to help them by referring people that you know have the talent and skills for which they are looking. Follow the openings on their sites and make suggestions. Or touch base with them on a regular basis to recommend highly-skilled unemployed associates. You know the old saying, “What goes around comes around.” Who do you think that recruiter will call when he has a position that your skill set can fill? Get the picture? And, if you help another person capture a job, can you spell “indebted”?
· Network – Speak regularly to friends (both employed and unemployed) and prior business associates. Attend industry association meetings; join small industry networking groups that meet for lunch on a monthly basis. Work your network.
· Volunteer with organizations where you can meet prospective employers and demonstrate your talents. I worked as a volunteer for about six months in an industry-related organization. When they were looking for a full-time editor, I was the first person the association director targeted for the job. I secured the position and maintained it for over a decade before being approached with an even better opportunity.
· Do research on local employers that interest you. Research all targeted companies’ Web Sites for potential openings. Then send a customized marketing letter to determine if they would be willing to receive your resume or even meet briefly with you (where feasible).
· Send marketing letters to influential alumni from your college if applicable.
· Follow the job board openings and research company Web sites to gather more information where possible. Then apply as instructed.
· Follow-up on every correspondence with an email if phone calls are not accepted.
· Talk to temp agencies to see if there are positions that would get you into the front door of targeted employers.
· When interviewing, again let your personality shine and treat your perspective employer as a person, not someone to be feared. Be prepared to sell yourself. Do your homework and go in ready to ask a lot of questions and show off your knowledge of the company. Be prepared to direct the conversation and control the interview.
· Stay positive. Remember, this is a numbers game. The more you market, the better your likelihood of success. A generous concept in sales would be 25 rejections to 1 acceptance. The most frustrating part of job selling is that prospective employers don’t contact you to tell you they aren’t interested, nor do they allow you to call and ask. Most of the time you just don’t hear anything. So, stay positive by treating searching for employment like it’s a job. You’re the marketer/salesperson, and the product is you. It’s been said that if you give a person something in which he truly believes, he can become a successful salesperson. You know your capabilities; just believe in yourself. Good luck!
- Carol McKibben
"Carol is a former magazine and technology executive, she has had more than 20 years experience hiring and managing countless employees."