Advice for job seekers

When I started this email list, I only had experience searching for jobs, never hiring for one. Now I have been through the hiring process from the other side, and have reviewed a number of resumes and cover letters. I thought I would use this experience to share some thoughts with the job seekers out there.

I won’t pretend that these tips are new, or that no one else has written on this subject, and for that reason I’m going to keep this relatively short.

Remember this- the reason companies hire someone is that they have a problem they need to solve, even if it is just that they need another person to help do the work. Your job as an applicant is to understand the problem they are trying to solve, and show them why you are the person to help them solve that problem.

Resume tips:

  • PROOFREAD! Have a friend or family member review it for you too, make sure there are no typos.
  • Don’t include irrelevant jobs on your resume. If you have been working for ten years I don’t need to know about your high school or college job, unless it was directly relevant to the job you are applying to. Similarly, if you took some time between relevant jobs for whatever reason, don’t include the interim jobs, especially if the result is that your relevant employment history gets pushed down the page. You can address this by simply titling the employment history section something like “Relevant Past Employment”. I had this on my own resume. My ski bum jobs weren’t going to help me get a professional job, but my experience as a paralegal showed that I had professional experience. One made it, the others didn’t.
  • Make sure you customize your resume for the job you are applying to. Yes, it is more time consuming. Taking this approach will force you to consider if you are really qualified for the job you are considering. I took the approach of copying and pasting the job description into a google doc and highlighting/bolding keywords or phrases that I could address with my skills and experience. For an example, see here.

Cover letter:

  • A cover letter is mandatory. The cover letter must be customized to the job you are applying for.
  • PROOFREAD! Have a friend or family member review it for you too, make sure there are no typos.
  • Do a little research to see if you can find the name of the individual who will likely review your materials. Look on LinkedIn to try to figure out who is the hiring manager or the individual you may be working with. Also look and see if you know anyone at the organization or have a “second degree” connection who could provide background information or an introduction. With that said, sending a LinkedIn connection request to the hiring person is too aggressive. But do check out their profile.
  • Use the cover letter to describe how your experience is relevant to the position you want. Refer back to the keywords and phrases you picked out in the job description.

The Interview:

  • Once you know who you will be speaking with, look them up on LinkedIn or google them. Do some background research and find common ground or shared connections if possible. This shows you are prepared. You may not use the information you gather, but at least you have it and you know who you are talking with.
  • Send a thank you note afterwards. It can simply be an email, but a handwritten note will definitely get you noticed. This alone might not get you the job, but it makes a positive impression that people won’t forget.

Organizing the search:

  • I created a Google Drive folder for every job I applied to. It contained a copy and paste version of the job description, the link back to the job description, the resume and cover letter I submitted, and any details that I noted if I had an interview. This made it much easier for me to prepare for interviews because I could review these materials before the meeting. Often times the job description will be taken down before interviews take place, so having a copy available is valuable.
  • Create a database of companies that you are interested in. I used a spreadsheet (where do you think I find all these jobs I send out?) with a link to company/organization jobs boards and I kept track of the last time I had looked at each jobs board.
  • My spreadsheet also contained a list of all of the jobs I applied to, the date I had submitted my application materials, and the dates of follow up communications. This gave me a lot of information about how long companies were taking to review my materials or schedule interviews.
  • This level of organization helped keep me sane by giving me a sense of control over my job search. Looking for a job can be a tedious and frustrating process. Creating some sense of control made me feel better, even as I felt like I was banging my head against a wall.