1. Focus on a career path, and apply for that range of positions. Recruiters are not expected to look at your resume and determine a position for you. Don’t apply to a company asking for “any available position.” The company will likely discard your application. Don’t be afraid that you may choose the wrong department. Once you’re in the company, you will start to understand the responsibilities of your job and others, and can always transfer over time.
2. Don’t aim too high or too low. You need an entry-level job? Don’t apply for a management position. Looking for a replacement for the mid-level position that was just eliminated by your previous company? Don’t apply for customer service. Good employers realize when a candidate is over- or under-qualified, and will pass on your resume. Bad employers may consider you, but will regret the choice over time.
3. Build an effective network. Perhaps you have friends and acquaintances who know of opportunities. Make sure they know you’re searching. Apply directly to companies, but also use staffing agencies if possible.
4. Review your resume. If you are looking for one of several types of positions, it helps to have several versions of your resume (each one focusing on a specific line of work). Look over each version, and ask friends/family to look them over as well. Avoid the following types of mistakes:
- Typos: These are not always discovered in spell check, so be sure you identify and correct them all. Sentences like “Provided reports too the manager” need to be adjusted.
- Proper tense: If you are currently employed and describing your present duties, use present tense (ex: “Log calls into a database, Organize documentation in clients’ electronic files”). If you are listing off responsibilities for past positions, use past tense (ex: “Ran weekly backups in SQL, Coordinated monthly meetings with team leaders”).
- Unnecessary details: No employer cares about your hobbies and interests, unless they directly relate to the job for which you are applying. Example: If you wish to be considered for a job selling surfboards, it may be helpful to list surfing as a hobby. However, that same employer probably won’t care if you like to play chess.
- Unnecessary work history: If you’ve been in the work force for many years, there’s no need to enter your first job(s) into your work history. This is especially true if those job duties do not relate to the postition to which you are applying. It’s also not necessary to list each and every responsibility assigned to you. Pick and choose what is relevant, and promote those details.
- Incomplete or redundant contact information: Make sure your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address are clearly visible. If you have more than one phone number or e-mail address, provide only one of each. Employers won’t chase you down if they can’t reach you the first time.
5. Print several copies of each resume, and keep them with you. If you’re actively job searching, it’s best to have hard copies of your resume in your car. That way, if you meet someone who may be able to help, you can provide it to that person. It’s always best to be prepared, and more effective than exchanging e-mail addresses with a promise to touch base later.
6. Resume submission/cover letter: Make sure you submit your resume to the appropriate department (usually Human Resources). Don’t submit a resume to a specific point outside HR unless you are specifically instructed to do so. Each resume should include a short cover letter explaining your desire to apply for a specific position, as well as a short summary of your selling points (ex: “Five years’ experience in customer service, MCSE in Windows 2010”).
7. Always be “on your game.” Potential employers can call you at any time. Keep your cell phone charged. Be sure you always answer your phone professionally, and be prepared to answer random questions. Phone screening is a way companies can get a feel for the communication skills of applicants. This is extremely important when you apply for any position that requires customer contact. If the phone call goes poorly, you may not get a second chance with that company.
8. Prepare for your interview. A poor interview experience can lead to the loss of a great opportunity. Expect anything and everything, having backup plans in case something goes wrong.
- Attire: Select appropriate interview clothing well in advance of the actual meeting. Men should wear a dark suit with a conservative tie. Women can also wear a suit, but their options are a bit more varied. Dark solid colors are always the best choice.
- Punctuality: If you arrive late for an interview, it leads the employer to think you may have problems arriving on time for work. Make sure you arrive around ten minutes early. This will give you time to fix your appearance, use the restroom, and fill out an application in the lobby. If necessary, make a dry run to the interview site at least a day before the meeting.
- First impression: When meeting the interviewer, project yourself with confidence and friendliness. Use a firm handshake, and make eye contact. If you have difficulty looking at someone directly eye-to-eye, then focus on that person’s eyebrow. Pick one eye (or eyebrow), and focus on that side when speaking. Make sure the interviewer knows you’re grateful for the opportunity to meet him. Employers frequently make hiring decisions during these first few moments (long before you are asked any questions), so keep these tips in mind.
- Prepare your answers: Interviews are set up to get a deeper understanding of candidates. Don’t simply repeat what can be found on your resume. Answer questions with quick examples (ex: “I enjoyed being assigned this task because it gave me an opportunity to meet regularly with other departments, improving the overall corporate communication flow.”). One-word answers imply that you have something to hide. Overly long answers show that you want to control the conversation. Additionally, don’t be blindsided by unexpected questions. Take them in stride, and answer them with confidence.
- Ask relevant questions: Don’t ask about the company’s drug-screening policy, or how strictly the break times are monitored. However, it’s always good to ask questions that impress the interviewer (ex: “How long has the department been structured this way, What types of responsibilities can be delegated to me over time”). Good questions always project an interest in the company, rather than focused on yourself.
- Thank the interviewer: Do this at the end of your meeting, but also send a thank-you e-mail when you get home. If you met with more than one person, send each of them a quick message.
Once you master these skills, your job-seeking experience will become less intimidating. You are selling yourself to a potential employer, so you want to be sure that company sees you as a valuable resource. The more worth you project, the better your odds of getting hired.