Introduction: Job Hunting

Frankly, almost all of us are amateurs at it.

If we find ourselves needing to make a career move, we may pick up a book about job search and start cramming. We might check out a couple of websites for advice on resumes or how to interview. Maybe we attend a workshop to learn techniques for finding employment.

Of course, most people just feel their way along until they land a job offer. And they make a lot of rookie mistakes.

It’s not that job hunting is so complex. It’s just that we don’t do it on a regular basis.

Actually, searching for a new job is a game of fundamentals. We’re not likely to score with some trick play, but rather by mastering the basic “blocking and tackling.”

This handbook boils down the latest job-related research and gives you the know-how you need. No more “winging it.” No more wasted effort on a time-consuming, trial-and-error approach.

Here’s the hard-core truth about job-hunting practices that work best.

Chapter 1: Networking

Studies from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Labor, rank networking as the most effective way to find employment. The success rates for job search methods are as follows:

Identify decision makers and network to them 70-85%
Identify decision makers, send resumes, and cold call 8-10%
Contact recruiters 6-7%
Reply to advertised postings (online and classified ads) 4-5%
Send mass mailing of resumes (no follow-up calls) 2-3%


Networking works the best for several reasons: There are far fewer job candidates competing for unadvertised openings. Networking is the only way for you to find these "hidden" jobs. Networking can get a job candidate on an employer's short list even before there is a job vacancy. Eventually, every company has a vacancy. Employers simply prefer to hire referrals. It's less expensive and less work than hiring a complete stranger.

More than 80% of jobs are unadvertised. For these jobs, it's not just what you know but who you know.

Use the following approach in developing your job search connections.

1. Build your list of target companies.

Research and identify 25-50 companies that you are interested in working for. In your selection process, consider criteria such as each company’s location, industry, growth rate, reputation, size, and culture. Next, identify the decision makers in your target companies. Decision makers are the managers who have the power to hire you. You ultimately want to network your way to them. The following sources will help you compile a list of target companies and decision makers.

Even though there is more information available on large companies, don’t limit your research to only them. According to The Wall Street Journal “over the past decade, small businesses have created 60% to 80% of net new jobs.”

2. Brainstorm Make a list of everybody you know: friends, acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, church members, clergy, classmates, teachers, club members, employers, supervisors, colleagues, vendors, customers, fellow association members, consultants, lawyers, bankers, doctors, dentists, barbers, golf buddies, etc.

3. Go public. Contact everyone in your network. Let them know you are in the job market and the type of position you are looking for. Touch base with even the most casual acquaintances.

4. Gather intelligence. Since most people can’t offer you a job, seek their advice. For example, ask questions such as: Do you have any thoughts on what the next steps should be in my job search? Do you know so-and-so (the decision maker) or someone who does? What companies would you look at if you were to change employers? This is a list of employers I’m interested in. Do you know anyone at these companies?

It could take hundreds of conversations before you network your way to a decision maker. Nonetheless, your odds of landing a job through this proactive approach are much greater than finding employment through passive search methods such as responding to online job ads and mass mailing resumes.

5. Persevere Expect some contacts to give you the cold shoulder. Don’t let it bug you. Remind yourself that most jobs are filled through word of mouth. Continue to ask people for leads, advice, ideas, and referrals. 37% of workers polled by search firm Robert Half International said the biggest mistake people make when networking is not asking for help.

6. Be a giver, not just a taker. Show interest in your network contacts. Find out what’s happening in their work and personal lives. Engage them in conversations and focus on how you can help them. Good networking is a two-way street.

7. Socialize. The last thing you want to do when you are unemployed is retreat behind closed doors. Work at keeping your social calendar full. Hang out at civic organizations, health clubs, golf courses, fundraisers, church groups, career fairs, business conferences, trade shows, etc.

8. Become an active member of professional organizations. Join professional associations, attend their meetings, and build relationships with other members. For just about every conceivable occupation, there’s an association. The Encyclopedia of Associations, available at public libraries, contains information on more than 100,000 organizations. And Weddles.com offers links to over 1,000 associations.

9. Network your way to decision makers before they need you. Most job hunters spend all their time chasing job openings. Don’t follow the crowd. Contact employers before there is an opening. Make them aware of your interest and qualifications so when they have a vacancy, you have a head start on the competition. The majority of companies, regardless of whether they are shrinking or growing, will have job vacancies this year. People retire, move to new jobs, accept promotions, etc. Even when the total number of jobs declines in the U.S., The Conference Board reports more than 2.5 million online advertised job vacancies each month. That number does not include the estimated additional 3 million job openings each month that are not advertised anywhere.

10. Internetwork. The following are several ways to use the Internet to expand your network: Connect with professionals via Linkedin.com, Ryze.com, and Jibberjobber.com. Become a member of online communities such as Facebook.com and Friendster.com. Track down former coworkers at Classmates.com and Zoominfo.com. Participate in trade association chat rooms, industry conference discussion forums, and blogs. Use Technorati.com to search blogs for the names of decision makers.

11. Cast a wide net. Don’t be snobby about who you network with. Your dry cleaner may be the brother of a corporate executive who is looking for an employee like you. You just never know. Treat every individual as valuable regardless of their perceived influence. Think of it this way. Every person knows at least 100 people. Therefore, if you meet any ten new people, you immediately increase the number of your potential contacts by a minimum of 1,000 people. One of those 1,000 might be the person who helps you land a job.

 

“I’m not a snob. Ask anybody. Well, anybody that matters.”

 

—Simon Lebon, of the rock band Duran Duran

Chapter 2: Diversifying Your Job Search

Networking is the way most people find their jobs, but of course it’s not the only way. So it pays to diversify your efforts. Using multiple search methods improves your chances for re-employment while also making the job-hunting process less tiresome and tedious.

1. Respond to online job ads. . It’s not unusual for hundreds of applicants to apply for each online advertised job opening. The competition is fierce. Because each ad draws tremendous attention, no more than 5 out of 100 people find new jobs via online job boards.

“ The majority of online job seekers spend an average of 50 hours per month searching the Internet for jobs.”
—Kelton Research survey

“ Jobs ranks sixth in the top ten online search terms, above cars, games, and porn.”
—Google

“ Nearly 13% of the traffic on the Internet can be traced to people visiting career job sites.”
—Nielsen/NetRatings

Fortunately, you can do things to improve your chances.

First, don’t waste your time. Respond to job postings only when the credentials on your resume closely match the specs of the job. Employers are extremely selective because they have tons of resumes from which to choose. If you don’t look like a perfect fit on paper, your chances are slim to none.

Second, if you answer a job ad and hear nothing back for two weeks, place a phone call directly to the hiring manager and reiterate your interest.

Third, focus on the online sites that fill the most jobs. Employer web sites account for the most Internet hires. Companies will first search through their own databases before they advertise openings on other sites. Over 90% of the Global 500 companies advertise job openings on their websites. Specialty job sites fill one-third more jobs than major career sites. There is a specialty site for practically every occupation. The big job boards, Indeed.com, Monster.com, Career Builder.com, and Beyond.com, are among the best-known, most-used, and least-effective sites for job hunters. It’s true that if you post your resume to one of these sites, thousands of employers will have potential access to it. Unfortunately, they will also have access to millions of other resumes in the same database.

2. Register with a recruiter. Recruiters fill about 7% of jobs. They know which companies are hiring, and they can do the legwork to get you an interview. However, they will probably not give you the time of day unless you are a nice fit for a position they are currently attempting to fill. Nonetheless, they are worth contacting, especially the ones that specialize in your area of expertise.

Sources of free information:

  • Onlinerecruitersdirectory.com
  • Recruitersonline.com
  • Searchfirm.com
  • Headhuntersdirectory.com

3. Consider employment agencies. Check out agencies if you are interested in entry to mid-level positions or temporary work. Sites such as Nettemps.com and Americanstaffing.net provide links to agencies in your area.

4. Make cold calls . . . a lot of them. Cold calling is phoning complete strangers without a referral. You will probably have to make at least 100 calls to get through to an interested decision maker. The callers who succeed have a good 30-second sales pitch. Plus, they have the tenacity to keep dialing after repeated rejections. While the response rate on cold calls is low, it’s much higher than just mailing a resume and doing nothing more.

5. Make the postal system work for you. Increase the odds that your cover letters and resumes bypass gatekeepers and reach decision makers. Send your mail certified. This service requires the recipient’s signature at the time of delivery.
Certified mail costs a bit more, but the extra postage is worth it, especially if you are investing time to customize your message for each employer.

Chapter 3: Cover Letters

Your cover letter should be short and sweet, but provocative and powerful. Its job is to introduce you and cue up your resume, making the employer want to read more about you.

Just as an after-dinner speaker needs someone to give a brief introduction that builds credibility, grabs the crowd’s attention, and makes people want to hear what the speaker has to say, your cover letter should create interest and command attention.

1. Always send a cover letter with your resume.A nationwide survey by Accountemps found 60% of executives believe "a cover letter is either as important as or more critical than a resume."

2. Address for success. Don’t address your letter “To Whom It May Concern.” People want to see their own names. Research online or call the company to get the hiring manager’s name and correct spelling.

3. Customize the letter. Employers feel good if job seekers have some connection to them. Mention the name of a personal reference to the company if you have one. Explain why the particular company interests you, and note your accomplishments that make you a perfect fit for the job.
Show that your decision to apply to the company was a well-informed one. Work a flattering fact about the company into the letter. You don’t want potential employers to think that you selected them out of the Yellow Pages

4. Keep it to one page. Company recruiters often have to plow through hundreds of applications. They dislike long-winded, rambling cover letters. Be succinct.

5. Double-check. Closely proofread your cover letter more than once before sending it, and ask someone else—a fresh pair of eyes—to do the same. The letter must be perfectly clean. One mistake can disqualify you.

6. Avoid flowery language. Don’t write sentences you would never say out loud, such as “Enclosed is my resume for your perusal.” Or, “I have a plethora of skills.” Choose your words so you come across as smart, not pretentious.

 

“What's another word for thesaurus?”

 

—Steven Wright