Searching for a new job is a daunting task. You have to fine-tune your resume, comb through job boards cluttered with junk postings, and respond to recruiters peppering you with connection requests on LinkedIn. It’s no small undertaking. But if you want to land a position that will take your career in a positive direction, it’s essential to treat your job search with attention and care.
Before you start sending out applications and scheduling interviews, follow these 14 steps to set yourself up for job search success.
Where to begin as a new job seeker
1. Define your goals and objectives
It can be tempting to apply for any open position that catches your eye, especially if you need a paycheck ASAP. However, taking a job that’s not a good fit is a guaranteed path to feeling dissatisfied and unengaged. The last thing you want is to have to start your search all over again in a few months because you wound up in a job you hate.
To find positions that will be both fulfilling to you and beneficial to your career, spend some time clarifying your objectives and setting goals for your job search. What qualities do you want in an ideal position? What kind of company do you want to work for? Where do you see yourself in five years, and what kind of roles would help you get there? Your responses to these questions will give you a clear answer on whether it’s worth your time to apply for any given job.
2. Write down your professional accomplishments
What are you most proud of in your career thus far? What accomplishments have been recognized by your manager or peers? These are the things you’ll want to call out in your resume and cover letter rather than just listing your job duties.
When possible, try to choose accomplishments that are relevant to the jobs you’ll be applying for. So, if you’re searching for administrative assistant positions, include achievements that highlight your organization and record-keeping skills. If you’re applying to be a veterinary technician, share your accomplishments as a volunteer with a local animal rescue group, and so forth.
3. Outline your work history and dates of employment
Since prospective employers may verify your work history, it’s important to make sure the information in your resume is accurate. Your work history should include the company name, location, position title, and dates of employment.
For dates of employment, it’s traditional to include the month and the year you held the job, i.e. September 2016 to November 2020. If you’re trying to minimize gaps in employment, you may opt to include the year only.
4. Choose an appropriate resume format
Though most of us are familiar with the traditional resume format, where work history is the primary focus and positions are listed in reverse-chronological order, it’s not the only style of resume out there. A functional resume, for example, can help you highlight your skills when you’re changing careers, while a creative resume can help wow hiring managers in fields like art and design.
Check out our library of sample resumes and formats to learn more about each style and choose the one that’s most appropriate for your job search.
5. Create a generic, all-encompassing resume
For the best chance of landing a job, you should customize your resume for every position you’re applying for so that it spotlights the information that’s most relevant to that job. To make this task easier, start by building a comprehensive resume that includes the full scope of your work history and skills. This is your resume master template.
Then, when you find a position you’re interested in, you can make a copy of the template, save it as a new file and add, remove or tweak items as needed to speak directly to the qualifications listed in the job posting.
6. Have two trusted friends proofread your resume
While some hiring managers don’t mind overlooking a typo in a resume, even a small mistake can be a deal breaker for others and will prevent you from getting an interview. And a glaring mistake, like misspelling your own company’s name, reflects poorly on you as a candidate. So, proofreading is imperative.
It can be tricky to spot errors in your own writing, even for the biggest grammar fanatic. Enlist at least two other people to review your resume and make sure the spelling, grammar, and content are squeaky clean. Have your proofreaders look over both an onscreen and a print version for maximum accuracy.
7. List your target employers or industry
When you’re browsing job boards at random, the sheer volume of positions can be overwhelming. You can also spend hours getting sucked into job listings that are interesting but ultimately irrelevant (traveling ski instructor position that pays in free lift tickets, we’re looking at you!). To avoid wasting time and getting discouraged, you need focus.
Make your search manageable by creating a list of industries, employers and job titles to zero in on. This will give your job search some parameters and help you make the most of every minute you spend looking.
8. Update your LinkedIn profile
These days, your LinkedIn profile is as important as your resume to some hiring managers. When a potential employer types your name into Google, it’s one of the first things they’ll see. Make a good impression by ensuring it’s up to date and tailored to the kinds of jobs you’re currently looking for.
9. Connect with recruiters
A recruiter brings a human element to the often-robotic job searching process, looking beyond resumes and keywords to see candidates as a complete package. LinkedIn has made it easier than ever before to connect with recruiters who can expand your job prospects.
To find recruiters to connect with, type terms like recruiter, recruitment and headhunter into LinkedIn’s search bar with the ‘People’ option selected. You can then further refine your search by city or industry.
When you find a recruiter who works in your field, send them a message explaining why you’re reaching out and what you’re looking for. Most recruiters will be receptive to your request to connect and offer further instructions to take the next step.
10. Cast a wide net
The more people who know you’re in the market for a new role, the more likely you are to hear about interesting job openings. So, tell friends and trusted professional contacts that you’re open to opportunities. Getting a personal referral from a colleague is one of the best ways to become a strong contender for a job you want.
Sometimes, job searching requires discretion. You might not want your current employer to know you’re looking, or you might be looking for a really niche job that could take a long time to find. This is one reason working with a recruiter can be a great way to expand your options without shouting about your job search from the rooftops.
11. Post your resume on job boards
In addition to actively applying for jobs, another job-search strategy is to entice hiring managers to contact you. One way to do it is to post your resume on job boards. Hiring managers and recruiters often check these when they have an open position.
If you do decide to publish your resume on job boards, be aware that anyone can see it–including your current boss. For best results, respond quickly to inquiries that come in and stay on top of weeding through them so you don’t get buried in responses from recruiters who are reaching out to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether they have a fitting position for them.
12. Search job boards and company websites daily
While some companies are required to interview a certain number of candidates or leave job postings up for a certain amount of time before hiring, others are looking to hire as fast as possible and will do so as soon as they get a qualified applicant. The early bird gets the worm, and searching daily will help you be that bird.
In addition to job boards, bookmark the career pages of companies you’re interested in and visit them regularly. This is often the fastest way to hear about a new job opening when you have a specific employer in mind.
13. Set up job alerts
Pretty much any networking or job posting site offers job alerts, which send you emails or text messages with positions that you’re likely to be interested in. We recommend setting up job alerts on LinkedIn and Google, at a minimum.
14. Treat your job search like it’s your job
As an employee, you have set work hours and work for a designated amount of time every day. It’s how you stay productive and make sure your work gets done. Treat your job search the same way, setting aside dedicated time for it each day.
Reserving a set period of time, like an hour a day, for job searching will help you maintain forward momentum. On the other side of the coin, stopping your search activities when that daily time frame is up will help keep you from getting burned out.
Searching for a new job is undeniably a lot of work. Putting in a bit of time to prep beforehand will help lighten the load and keep your search on track so you can land a great position faster.