Everyone has faced a job hunt, whether it’s your first job or you’re looking for a new job. When you start thinking about how to find a new job, you are often filled with feelings of excitement mixed with anxiety of the unknown. When thinking about how to find a new job, it’s best to create a plan before you start your search.
To make the process more manageable, a best practice is to break down the process into smaller more tangible steps according to Harvard Business Review (HBR). And the obvious place to start is with your resume. How recently have you updated it? Have you had it reviewed by a professional resume writer? If you’re at an executive level, getting professional help can be very helpful.
As the article notes, think of your resume as a marketing document that conveys you and your abilities to a specific audience…a recruiter, a member of the human resources department, a department hiring manager. Think of your resume as the story of your professional life. Additionally, your resume should have a “baseline version” that you can easily modify for specific jobs you’re applying to.
You’ll want to start with an introductory paragraph that summarizes your expertise. This should be succinct and impactful. Only a couple of lines of text and a few bullet points. You’ll also want to use this part of your resume to speak to your accomplishments. The intent in the top third of the first page of your resume is to engage the reader so they want to continue reading. If you’ve lost them here, you are going to struggle in your search.
A key point when it comes to your resume is, “Don’t fret too much about gaps in your employment, short stints at multiple jobs, or unplanned departures. Yes, they may raise alarm bells for some hiring managers, but as executive coach Patricia Carl writes, there’s no such thing as a perfect resume, especially considering the past few years of uncertainty and job losses. You can often address those issues in a cover letter or during an interview.”
The next step is to review your LinkedIn profile. If it looks exactly like your resume, you have some work to do. You won’t need to include all of the details contained in your resume. It provides you an opportunity to tell your story a little differently than your more formal resume.
Now that you have your resume and LinkedIn profile updated, the next element to consider is your cover letter. Some people think the cover letter is dead but if you’re serious about a job, there is a good chance a cover letter could put you over the top.
Writing a cover letter will more often help you and shouldn’t hurt you assuming you put the time into understanding the role, the company, and even the industry. A cover letter should not be a generic letter you send with your resume. It requires time and effort to write a letter that speaks specifically to the role(s) and why you are a good fit.
Much like your resume, you need a succinct powerful opening sentence to hook the reader and encourage them to keep reading about you as a top candidate. Your cover letter is a great opportunity to demonstrate how you solve problems that are relevant to the role. Make it specific and concise in three bullet points how your experience relates to the key criteria needed to be successful in the role. And use LinkedIn to find either the head of HR or the department head for the role instead of a generic “To whom it may concern” at the top of your letter.
When you’ve progressed to an interview, you’ve moved into the next phase of the job search process. It’s safe to assume that your first interview is going to be remote, either on the phone or via video conference. In most circumstances, the first few interviews are now handled remotely. This opens up the candidate pool which means you need to be prepared to present your best self through video.
Make sure you know how to use the technology the interviewer prefers such as Zoom or Teams. Check your camera and microphone at least 15 minutes prior to the interview in case you need to restart your computer. Depending on where you are, make sure you have a background if you need one. As the article notes, “you won’t get as much non-verbal feedback during the conversation, focus on conveying warmth and establishing an emotional connection.”
While everyone tends to do some preparation, rarely do people spend the time they should to be ready for the interview. Per the article, “Find out as much as possible about the company — how it’s organized, its performance, its culture. Research the industry, familiarizing yourself with any trends and challenges. And, do some background searching on the interviewers. Of course, reread the job description a few times before going in, so that you can demonstrate you have what it takes to fill the role.”
Focus on three things that make you the best candidate for the role that you want to emphasize to the interviewer. According to professor Art Markman most hiring managers are thinking about three things: What will it be like to work with you? Can you learn? Do you take initiative? They may not directly ask these specific questions, but it’s what they are trying to figure out.
In addition to these three questions, there are also the obvious questions you need to prepare for. These include: Tell me about yourself. What are your greatest strengths? What are your biggest weaknesses? For the first question, use an example in your work history that relates to the company and role. The key to the second two questions is, to be honest with yourself and demonstrate you have self-awareness.
Once the interview is complete, make sure you take some time to reflect on your thoughts. Does the company still appeal to you? Remember, you’re evaluating the company just as they are evaluating you. How did the interview process flow? Were they on time? Did you feel like you connected with them? Culture fit is critical, the last thing you want is to be conducting another job search a year later because you didn’t follow your instincts.
It goes without saying that you should send a thank you email or note to everyone you interviewed with. The old-school handwritten notes, while more personal, take time to arrive unless you have the ability to hand-deliver them to the company. If not, an email is the best approach.
Keep the thank you note short and call out one or two specifics from the interview. And a great callout from the article if you think you messed up your response to a question, “you can use this opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness. You don’t need to apologize, but you might clarify a confusing answer you gave to an important question. And express your continued interest at the end of the note.”
When you’re excited about an interview, you are looking forward to hearing back on the next step or with an offer. More often than not the process is going to take longer than you expect. This happens for a variety of reasons and rarely does it have anything to do with you. So when you don’t hear back in a timely manner, don’t worry.
Instead, stay focused on your job search, keep up with other roles you’re interested in pursuing. Staying active keeps your mind off of the wait. Continue to meet with your network and let them know what you’re looking for. It’s okay to check in after a couple of weeks (or whatever time frame is applicable).
If you don’t end up getting the role, remember that it could be for a number of reasons that again have little or nothing to do with you. They may have eliminated the position, it could have been filled in-house, the role could have evolved, or they may have instituted a hiring freeze. While you may never know why you didn’t get the role, it’s best to stay positive and focus on your search.
From the first day of your search, you’ll realize that finding a new job is an up-and-down emotional rollercoaster. You get excited about a return call or email and then get down on yourself when you don’t hear back or get a rejection. Finding a new job takes weeks and the further you progress in your career, the longer it takes, often months and perhaps up to a year.
Keep your end goal in mind and stay focused on that goal. Not all jobs are posted on LinkedIn or on company websites. If there is an industry you’re interested in, follow the companies that interest you on social media and engage with them through commenting on their posts. Stay active with your network…even when you’re not looking for a new role. Helping others out and being available to them is a great way to stay top of mind. And you won’t feel weird reaching out when you start looking.
Another way to stay engaged during a job search, especially if you’re between jobs, is to build a new skill through a class. There are a variety of online learning platforms, bootcamps, and reskilling and upskilling programs at companies that are becoming more common.
If you are looking to uplevel your search, consider working with an executive coach. They can help you see blind spots and help you improve your interpersonal skills. Working with a good coach can be expensive, but if they shorten your search by a few months, the return on investment might be worth it.
To learn more about working with an executive search firm or for more information on finding a new job, check out our blog.