Career Checklists: 100 Tips for Success In Your Job Search
Happy 2016! Let's start it out right with a few tips for a successful job search!
Most people have never been taught how to find a job. However, research shows that the average worker only spends 4 years in a job — and you’ll have as many as 12-15 jobs over the course of your career.
Here are 100 things every jobseeker can do to be successful in their job search.
Follow these checklists to learn how to find your new job faster. Remember, you only need one company to hire you. Instead of focusing your efforts on making dozens or hundreds of contacts with prospective employers, be selective!
¨ Start with the end in mind. Take the time to think about what kind of job you’re targeting. What job title, functional roles, and industry are you interested in? Any specific companies you’d like to work for? If your ideal job was available, how would you describe it?
¨ Take time to organize your job search. Outline a strategy and then use your plan to create a weekly list of activities.
¨ Create a schedule each day for your job search activities. Make a list each day of the activities you want to complete. However, if an interview or networking opportunity comes up, of course you will rearrange your schedule to fit it in!
¨ Set aside a workspace for your job search. Designate a specific area to use when conducting your job search. This should be an area free of distractions.
¨ Devote sufficient time to your job search. The more time and energy you devote to your job search, and the more aggressively you network, the faster your job search will proceed. If you are not currently working, commit yourself to a minimum of 40 hours per week devoted to your search campaign. If you are currently working, devote 15-20 hours per week at a minimum.
¨ Recognize that your motivation is going to increase and decrease, depending on the success (or lack of success) you are having in reaching your job search goal. Reward yourself for effort, not for results.
¨ Get the support of a team to help you. You don’t have to go it alone in your job search. Ask your family and friends to support you. Join a job club. Use the services offered by your city, county, or state employment office. Contact your university alumni association. Hire a résumé writer and/or career coach.
¨ Enlist an accountability partner. Recruit one person to support, encourage, and motivate you in your job search. This can be a friend, another job seeker, or a coach/counselor. (Choose someone who can be objective with you — and critical of your efforts — when they need to be. That role might be too difficult for a spouse/partner.)
¨ It can be easier to get a job if you have a job (even if the job isn’t related to the job you want). Employers sometimes see hiring someone who is unemployed as “riskier” than hiring someone who is already working.
¨ If you are having difficulty finding a job in your area, consider relocation. If you live in an area with high unemployment — especially in your industry — consider whether moving to another city, state, or region would improve your chances of getting hired.
Research Your Ideal Job/Know What You Want
¨ Success in a job search involves identifying and articulating a clear idea of what you want. Create an “ideal job” description for the type of job you want. Describe the job title, type of company, location, responsibilities, compensation/benefits, etc.
¨ Identify which of your skills are most marketable to a prospective employer. Make a list of your skills: customer service, sales, technology, communication, etc. Clarifying your skills will not only help in your job search, but will also help you identify which skills, training/education, and experience you emphasize on your résumé.
¨ Ask yourself these questions: What am I good at? What am I not so good at? What do I like doing? What skills do I need to update in order to stay current?
¨ Companies hire employees to solve a problem they have. To be effective in your job search, you should identify what problem the company is having and position yourself as their problem-solver. For example, companies don’t hire HR employees to keep a seat warm. They hire them to ensure compliance with government regulations and to help them identify/recruit/hire/retain effective employees. Figure out what job you are really performing for the company.
¨ Don’t just focus on large companies in your job search. Small and mid-size companies — including start-up companies — are a significant source of new job opportunities. But you won’t often find their jobs posted on large job boards. Instead, look on the company’s website or Facebook page, LinkedIn company profile, or even on Craigslist.
Find Companies That Are Hiring
¨ Make a list of companies that you’d like to work for. Then research the company to determine if they are hiring. Don’t just look for job postings. Talk to people who work for the company. Read articles about the company in the local newspaper, business journals, or trade publications. Are they growing? If so, they’ll likely be hiring in the future.
¨ Local business journals can be a great way to find less well-known companies that are growing (and, therefore, hiring). Search “local business journal” or “(City) business journal” on Google, or check out The Business Journals listing at http://businessdirectory.bizjournals.com/
¨ The Yellow Pages (or online industry directories) can be a good source of potential employers. Want to work in a particular industry? Make a list of companies in the industry and then use your network, LinkedIn research, and direct contact with the prospective employers to find out if they are hiring.
¨ Consider opportunities at start-up companies. Make contact with venture capitalists who are funding start-ups through sites like VentureLoop.com.
¨ Many companies are posting their job openings on their social media accounts. “Like” the company page on Facebook, “follow” them on Twitter, and check to see if they offer a company page on LinkedIn to follow.
Résumés and Cover Letters
¨ Keep your résumé up to date at all times. You never know when you might need it.
¨ Make sure your career communication documents are 100% error-free. Before sending any email, résumé, or cover letter, proofread it. And then proofread it again.
¨ Never use your current employer’s contact information on your résumé — especially not your work email address! (And speaking of email addresses, make sure that the one you use is professional — not email@example.com.)
¨ Be sure to include all of your contact information so prospective employers can get in touch with you easily. Include your full name, street address (including city, state, and zip code), home phone number, cell number, and email address.
¨ Review your résumé and cover letter to ensure it targets the job you want. Don’t try to use a “generic” résumé — and don’t send a résumé that is geared towards one type of job to apply to a completely different kind of job. (If you are pursuing sales jobs and logistics jobs, make sure you have a sales-targeted résumé and a logistics-targeted résumé!)
¨ Adapt the résumé and cover letter to each position you’re pursuing. Choose quality over quantity. It’s better to send five targeted résumés than to apply to 100 jobs with an untargeted résumé.
¨ Make sure you understand what the employer is looking for in a candidate for the position before you submit your résumé and cover letter. Do your documents highlight the specific skills and experience the employer is seeking?
¨ Review your résumé and make sure you are highlighting your strongest accomplishments. Your accomplishments are what will set you apart from other job candidates. Most job functions are responsible for the same types of responsibilities. What gives you the competitive edge is how well you perform these responsibilities!
¨ Don’t forget a cover letter. (A “cover letter” doesn’t always mean a letter — it can also be an introductory email.) A cover letter introduces you when you can’t introduce yourself personally. A personalized letter/email is necessary any time you will not be handing your résumé to the hiring manager directly. Although some hiring managers say they never read cover letters, the majority of them do (even if they say they don’t).
¨ Honesty is vital! Never, never, never, never lie on your résumé.
¨ Make sure your résumé is compliant with applicant tracking systems, as many large employers use these to screen job applicants. In addition to making sure your formatting is ATS. compliant, ensure you have the appropriate keywords in your résumé to match the position you’re seeking.
¨ Any time you find a position online that you’re really interested in, see if you can find the contact information for the hiring manager and follow-up with a résumé and cover letter via snail mail.
¨ Consider a targeted résumé distribution campaign to get your résumé in front of hiring managers and recruiters. There are third-party companies that can conduct research and produce a print or email campaign on your behalf.
¨ When looking for positions online, use a job search engine website — like LinkUp.com — to identify job postings that appear on company websites. (When a company adds or removes a job from their website, LinkUp automatically makes the change in their database as well.)
¨ If you don’t have the exact skills and experience outlined in an online job posting, don’t apply for the position online, because you’re likely to get screened out. Instead, research your contacts at the target employer and reach out to the decision-maker directly.
¨ More than half of all jobs are found through networking, although most jobseekers spend too much time on ineffective job search strategies, like applying for jobs online. Commit to making 2-3 networking contacts per week.
¨ The people you know can be the best way for you to find your next job. Make a list of all of your contacts: past employers, vendors, customers, colleagues, competitors, bankers, friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, etc.
¨ Ask your contacts for one of four things: leads (jobs they may know about), information, advice, and/or referrals (other people they can introduce you to that you should meet).
¨ Research and attend networking events hosted by your professional organization, Chamber of Commerce, tips groups, etc.
¨ Participate in online communities — for example, Facebook, LinkedIn, an alumni site, or your trade association’s website.
¨ Contact your alumni groups. Your college or university should have an alumni association (often with an online directory of members) that can be useful. Research contacts in your field, even if they didn’t graduate in the same year as you. Your common alma mater can be enough to connect you!
¨ Get involved in your professional association. Join a committee. The membership committee offers a natural connection to connecting with members. The programs committee recruits influential members to speak. Or join the finance committee (that helps line up sponsors — i.e., influential employers in the industry).
¨ You may have to pay to attend conventions or events in your industry, but it can be worth it (even paying a non-member rate to attend association events) because you’ll get exposure to people in your target industry who may be in a position to hire you, or recommend you to someone who can hire you.
¨ Consider sending a letter to members of your professional association. Your colleagues can be a tremendous asset in helping you find unadvertised opportunities. Write a letter asking for their help and assistance.
¨ The best time to build your network is before you need it. Start building your network now and keep growing it so it will be there when you are ready to use it.
¨ Social media is becoming increasingly important in the job search. More than 22 million jobseekers used online social networks to find their next job. Being active on social media — and connecting with prospective employers on social media — can be more valuable than applying for jobs posted on job boards. Check out websites like JobsMiner.com to learn about jobs posted on social media (blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).
¨ If you’re not conducting a confidential job search, let your friends, followers, and connections know that you’re looking for a job. Be sure to let them know what kind of job you’re looking for.
¨ Research your online reputation — do a search for yourself and see what prospective employers will see when they Google you. If there is something negative that comes up, see if you can have it removed, or make a plan to put out newer, more positive information about yourself to bump the negative information to the second or third page of the search results.
¨ Make yourself easy to find — and follow — on social media. Use your name, whenever possible, on your social media profiles (unless you have a very common name — then, include your middle name or some other distinguishing characteristic). Use the same (professional) photo on all your public social media accounts (i.e., Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+).
¨ Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up to date before you start searching. Create an attention-getting Headline, write a compelling Summary, populate your profile with all your relevant Education and Experience, and be sure you have a professional photo!
¨ One of the best ways to get noticed on LinkedIn is to be active in Groups related to your job and/or industry. Participate in discussions. Ask questions. Offer relevant resources. And grow your LinkedIn connections by sending requests to connect to fellow group members.
¨ If you are conducting a confidential job search, make sure to turn off activity notifications on LinkedIn and lock down your Facebook profile so you won’t tip off your current employer that you’re looking for a new job. If you don’t turn off your notifications before you update your profile in LinkedIn, all of your contacts will see activity updates as you add or change information on your profile. (And if you’re friends with your boss or co-workers on Facebook, don’t talk about your job search in your status updates!)
¨ Use your social media connections to research prospective employers. If you find out about a job opportunity, see who you know who works for the company — or see if anyone you know has a contact who works for the company. Social media makes it much easier to find the name of the hiring manager for the position you’re seeking.Twitter and LinkedIn are great ways to connect with someone who works at your target employer.
¨ Be mindful of what you post on Twitter. Make sure that your Twitter feed is “on brand,” because most Twitter accounts are open to the public. Many people have lost their jobs because of insensitive tweets. Be careful what you post.
¨ The more people you are connected with (friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn), the bigger your network for finding your next job. If you are unemployed, work to grow your social connections!
Working With Recruiters
¨ Find recruiters in your area by searching Google for “Recruiter and [city name] and [job title.]”
¨ Ask your colleagues for referrals to recruiters that specialize in your industry or job title.
¨ Consider using free and paid online directories to find recruiters. Directories like SearchFirm (www.SearchFirm.com) and Kennedy Career Services (www.KennedyCareerServices.com) are a good way to find a recruiter.
¨ If possible, work with more than one recruiter. Start with 2-3 recruiters. The more recruiter contacts, the larger the network, and the greater the number of opportunities that are likely to present themselves. However, be sure to disclose who else you are working with, if asked.
¨ Remember that recruiters don’t work for you — they work for their paying clients: the employers that hire them to fill a position. Therefore, don’t expect recruiters to be overly responsive when you contact them, unless you meet a current or future job opening.
Dress for Success
¨ Make sure your clothes fit properly and that they are clean and pressed (ironed). Ill-fitting and/or wrinkled clothes make a poor first impression.
¨ Pay attention to your hands. Make sure that your fingernails are clean and neatly trimmed.
¨ Shoes should be clean and polished and should match your outfit.
¨ Men: Wear a white or pastel shirt, dark pants, and dark or contrasting tie (don’t get too creative!).
¨ Women: Go light on the makeup. Don’t overdo your jewelry. Less is more.
¨ Practice shaking hands before you go on interviews. This is a key part of making a good first impression.
¨ Prepare, prepare, prepare! You must be extremely well-prepared and able to summarize your skills, experience, and other qualifications as they relate to your prospective employer’s specific needs.
¨ You also need to research the company. Read their website. Google them. Understand their history, but also where they are going.
¨ One of the best things you can do to prepare for an interview is to come up with a short list of questions to ask your interviewer. Don’t forget that a job interview is also a chance for you to find out if the company is a good fit for your needs.
¨ You can never be too prepared for a job interview. Have a friend or colleague help you practice answering questions.
¨ The most important thing to remember about salary negotiation is that most salaries are negotiable.
¨ If you’re asked about your salary history and you feel you must name a figure, give a salary range instead of your most recent salary. And don’t forget to add “that doesn’t include the value of insurance or other benefits.”
¨ Benefits can make a huge difference in your compensation package, so don’t overlook them. Benefits that can contribute to your compensation include life, dental, and disability insurance, bonus structures or profit-sharing plans, pension plans, vacation days, sick days, company car, tuition reimbursement, and signing bonuses.
¨ Never include salary information on your résumé.
¨ Conduct salary research. Check out websites like Salary.com that allow you to find out salary information for your job or industry, plus compare benefits, and calculate your cost of living in other cities.
¨ Do your homework about the company. Websites like Glassdoor.com can give you insight into the company’s specific compensation structure.
¨ Don’t bring up money until the interviewer brings up money, if you can help it. You don’t want to price yourself out of the running, nor do you want to settle for less than you are worth.
¨ Consider alternative compensation packages. In lieu of cash, consider stock options, performance bonuses, incentives, equity positions, telecommuting or other alternative work options, or a more comprehensive benefits package.
¨ Recognize that you may make less money in your next position, at least at the beginning. Forty percent of workers will make the same amount as in their last job, and 20 percent will make more. The remaining 40 percent will make less.
¨ If your salary isn’t the one you dreamed about, but the job offers the opportunity for learning and/or growth, consider taking the job with the goal of making yourself invaluable to the organization … or positioning yourself for your next job.
¨ Some companies will check your references; some won’t. Prepare your references for the companies that do, as well as for the companies that ask for your references, but never use them. The first step is identifying who you should consider to be your references. References should be people who know you well.
¨ Select 3-7 individuals to be your references. These can include current or former managers or supervisors, co-workers, team members, current or former customers, vendors or suppliers, and people you have supervised. You can also ask professors, faculty members, and advisors.
¨ Don’t wait until you are getting called for interviews before you start assembling your reference list. It can take time to track down and reach references, so start contacting your prospective references right away.
¨ Always ask for permission to list someone as a reference. Call your reference; don’t just email them. Assess whether they’d be a good reference for you. You want a reference who can be as enthusiastic about you as you are about getting the job. It’s fine to ask a reference to support you, but then not use them as a reference for particular jobs.
¨ Send a letter or email to your reference, thanking them for agreeing to serve as a reference, and provide a current copy of your résumé.
¨ Prepare a written list of references to give to prospective employers (or to email to them). It should match the format, font style, and font size of your résumé.
¨ You can also prepare an additional page that includes excerpts from — or reprints of — your LinkedIn Recommendations, but in hard copy format.
¨ Companies should ask your permission before contacting your references; however, simply providing contact information for references can be construed as permission to contact your references, in many cases.
¨ If you are asked to sign a release form for references, read it carefully, as it may authorize the company to contact unnamed references as well as the references you’ve listed. The release form may also authorize the company to conduct a background check (to see if you have any criminal or civil legal issues), and/or a credit check.
¨ Prepare your references to be contacted. Before an interview, re-contact them to make sure you can still use them as a reference. If you use their name as a reference for a particular job, contact your reference right after the interview. Give them the company name, position you’re seeking, and the contact information for the person who will be contacting them. Let them know some of the specific skills, experience, and achievements the reference checker may be interested in knowing about you.
¨ Are you in an industry that is declining? Consider how you can put your skills to work in a new industry. Make a lost of your transferable skills and how those skills can be used in an industry with long-term growth opportunities.
¨ But consider a career change carefully. Take the time to figure out what matters most to you in your career, and make sure your new career aligns with your values and goals.
¨ Are there opportunities to pursue your new career path within your current company? It may be easier for you to make a career shift when the company already knows you rather than changing careers and companies at the same time.
¨ Seek the advice of others who are already successful in the industry you’re looking to break into. Find a mentor!
¨ Don’t make a career change until you are ready. You’re more attractive to an employer (even in a new industry) if you already have a job. As you get closer to making the career change, continue to perform your current job to the best of your ability. Your current employer is likely to serve as a reference for your new job in your new career.
Your First 90 Days in a New Job
¨ You get paid for effort, attitude, and results. Effort = Showing up on time (or ahead of time), ready to work. Attitude = Being a positive influence on others. Results = Doing what needs to be done. Put in the effort, adjust your attitude, and deliver results.
¨ Ask your new employer to help you develop a transition plan for the first 30-60-90 days so you know what will be important for you to achieve during your first three months on the job. Your 90-day plan should specify priorities, goals, and milestones.
¨ Make learning a key component of your first 90 days in a new job. Learn the history of the company and begin to understand the culture. This will help you be more successful in your new role.
¨ Check in regularly with your new boss. Even if you have developed a master plan together, make sure you are scheduling progress meetings (weekly or biweekly) to make sure you are on track towards achieving the goals you’ve set for your first 90 days. You should also schedule a meeting at the end of each month to review your 90-day plan.
¨ Identify one area where you can secure an “easy win” — an accomplishment that can be achieved through focused effort within the first 90 days that you can build on for future success. Make sure that the win is something that is important to your new boss.