Job seekers can spend a lot of time trolling job sites and sending resumes en masse without culling much of an employer response let alone landing an interview. Employers still receive between 102 and 137 applications per job from both social-media networks and job boards, says a 2014 study from Brandon Hall Group.
Effective job search and generating employer interest requires careful thought, research and strategy. To help maximize your job search and get you on your desired career path, consider following these five steps.
1. Understand your job search criteria.
Figure out your top five priorities — whether it is company culture, salary or a specific job position. “If you understand what motivates you as an employee, it will be easier to target your applications to opportunities that match your skills and ambitions,” says Paul Sandusky, vice-president of talent acquisition and development at Ceridian, an HR software company.
Also be flexible. “You don’t want your specificity to cost you your dream job at your dream company,” advises Mariah DeLeon, vice-president of people at workplace ratings and job review site Glassdoor. She suggests that if you get to the point where you’re interviewing for a job at a company you want to work for but that isn’t quite the right fit, be candid with HR or the recruiter about your expertise and desire to work there. There’s always the possibility of a better opportunity opening up within that company.
2. Create a list of jobs that meet your criteria.
Once you’re able to articulate what you’re looking for in a job, use this criteria to guide you in your search. Create a list to keep track of information. Sheryl Sandberg used an Excel spreadsheet to organize her job search when she graduated from Harvard Business School. Use the format that best suits you.
3. Read the job description thoroughly.
Reading the job description during your job search may take up time up front, but it is a major time-saver in the long run; you won’t be applying for jobs for which you are an unlikely candidate.
“Companies generally have limited flexibility on their mandatory requirements, be it a particular university degree or specific job experience,” Sandusky explains. “[However] you should apply to a position if you are confident you can do the job, just be prepared to explain precisely how your skills or experiences are applicable to the opportunity at hand.”
4. Customize your resume and cover letter.
Shape both your cover letter and resume to speak to the company, position, key words and job requirements. Having multiple “versions” of your resume can be an effective way of tailoring your experience to a particular role or industry, Sandusky says.
5. Activate your referral network.
Many job openings are not advertised, which is why attending relevant industry events and conferences, career-related lectures and seminars, alumni events or training sessions can pay off. Let people know you’re looking, and ask about open positions.
Also, let your friends know that you’re looking and ask if you can email them your resume to provide an informed idea of your experience and skills. Chances are, at least one of your friends is one of those people who knows everybody and knows of several people who can provide guidance or a foot-in-the-door.
While there isn’t a magic bullet when it comes to finding a job, focusing your job search on quality over quantity and activating your relationships is the way to go.