Written By: Greg Kratz
Just as the most skilled practitioners of a particular trade or occupation tend to follow a set of best practices, so, too, do those who are highly successful at seeking employment.
The good news for those who are looking for work is that these habits and actions can be learned, practiced, and perfected.
If you’re searching for a new gig, or you’re planning to start a job hunt in the next few months, here are eight things you can do to emulate the most successful job seekers.
1. Tailor your resume and online profiles to the match the position you’re seeking.
Carefully read the job listing and any other information you can find about the role or the company. Then echo that language in your resume, your cover letter, and your LinkedIn or other profiles. “Your resume is not a tattoo, nor is your LinkedIn profile,” says an article from The Muse. “Treat them as living, breathing documents throughout your job search (and career).”
2. Use your network.
Sending your resume into cyberspace over and over again is not going to help you stand out in today’s job market. You need a more personal touch. Look on LinkedIn or elsewhere for friends or acquaintances who have connections to the company to which you have applied. Then reach out to them to build rapport and express your interest. A good word from a key person may make the difference between success and failure.
3. Focus on your first impression.
This advice comes from another The Muse article, which suggests that you try to be the gold standard of first impressions, whether your initial meeting is face-to-face or virtual. “Now is the time to think about your body language, your handshake, your cover letter opening lines, and your resume bullet points. … Let it sink far, far into your brain that you are competing with people who are killing it on first impressions. Why not flip the script and be the one everyone else is intimidated by?”
4. Practice with a friend.
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, don’t go in with a “fly by the seat of your pants” attitude. Do your research and come up with some questions the interviewer is likely to ask. Then find a trusted friend or family member—preferably someone with experience as hiring manager—to run a mock interview and provide honest feedback. It may be a bit awkward at first, and their input may be tough to take, but if it helps you nail the interview, it will be worth the effort.
5. Be specific.
In both your resume and any interviews, don’t be satisfied with clichés and standard phrases. Sure, you’re a people person and hard worker, but so is everyone else applying for the job. Provide examples from your career that prove you possess those traits. This will serve dual purposes of giving your potential employers confidence in your abilities and providing interesting stories about you that they will remember when they’re trying to decide who to hire.
6. Provide a portfolio.
Do this by adding relevant information to a strong but simple personal website, but also consider bringing printed materials to an interview. “The average person will bring a business card or a copy of their resume to an interview; a stand-out candidate will bring a portfolio folder that includes their cover letter, resume, printed recommendations, and examples of past work, if relevant,” says an article from The Balance Careers. “Although it takes some extra time to print and organize these materials, you might be surprised at how far it can get you in the interview process.”
7. Track your efforts.
If your job hunt lasts for weeks or even months, you may start to forget when you applied for which positions. This can be detrimental, especially if it leads to missed deadlines or opportunities. An article from CareerCast says careful tracking can help you remember to send thank-you notes or follow-up questions to potential employers at the right times. “Another great byproduct of tracking your efforts is the ability to create an audit trail of interactions you had along the way for each opportunity,” the article says. That could help considerably the next time you’re looking for a job.
8. Stay positive and be patient.
It’s a cliché, but it’s also true: looking for a job is usually a marathon, not a sprint. As you start the process, expect it to take longer than you would like. Be patient with yourself and with the companies that receive your applications. Don’t let an apparent lack of progress get you down. Positive people make a much better impression than “woe is me” types when it comes to interview time. Remember that, and keep on smiling.
There is no silver bullet to ensure job search success, but if you follow these eight best practices, you should put yourself in an ideal position to land the gig that’s right for you. Learn, practice, and perfect these skills, and you’ll find that you’re as much of an expert at seeking a position as you are at completing the tasks of the job you love.
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