By Curt Rosengren
There was a time when it seemed all you had to do was sneeze and another job would fall in your lap. Unfortunately, that time is past, and in its wake is a trail of people, pink slip in hand, wondering, “What do I do now?”
To find the answer, I surveyed recruiters and HR personnel with high tech firms for their take on today’s job search. Here’s what they had to say:
The bottom line is what can you do for them? The biggest key to success is to remember this simple rule – it’s about what you can do for the company. Everything you do, from putting your resume together to interviewing, should have that simple question at the core.
Now more than ever, companies are looking critically at potential employees and evaluating “what’s in it for us?” Know the company’s needs, and know how you can meet those needs. Recruiter after recruiter pointed out that most people just don’t seem to take that approach.
Flexibility and adaptability wins the game.
The times they are a-changin’, and if you want to make it as easy as possible on yourself, you should start limbering up. Things aren’t the same as they were a year ago, and they won’t be any time soon. Approach your search accordingly.
• Get flexible about the job you’re looking for. Try basing your search on transferable skills, not just specific job titles. Know what you’re targeting, but be willing to explore other options.
• Expand your industry focus. If the jobs in your industry of focus are sluggish, turn your attention to other industries as well. The Biotech industry is thriving right now. You might also want to take a look at industries that typically do well in an economic downturn, like fast food, discount retailers, etc. (no, I don’t mean flipping burgers – look at opportunities in the corporate offices). Expand the scope of your search to increase the likelihood of finding what you’re looking for.
• Staff sizes are smaller now, and employees have broader responsibilities, resulting in less specialization and more cross-functionality. Identify what functions your background lends itself to.
• Look at the skills that you bring to the table and think about how you can reinvent what you’re doing. Think outside the box about your next step. Arm yourself with information In the job search, knowledge really is power. The more you know, both about yourself and the companies you are targeting, the better your chances for success. Know yourself
• Be clear about what you want, and be able to communicate it to others.
• Identify your saleable, transferable skills. If you have a really good awareness of what you have to bring to the table, it will help you:
– Make a compelling case that what you have to offer is what the potential employer needs, whether this is in your resume, in an interview, or just a casual conversation.
– Identify other potential opportunities that utilize those same skills, but that you might not have given thought to otherwise.
• Find someone who can help you take an objective look at what you have to offer. Know the potential employers what needs they are trying to fill with any job you are applying for.
• When you are applying for a job, find out as much as possible about it. Use that knowledge to tailor your resume to fit hand in glove with that job.
• Before you get face to face with a potential employer, do the research first. Find out what their needs are, and figure out ahead of time how you can meet them. The more knowledgeable you are going into it, the more likely you will shine.
• When you are looking for opportunities, keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry/industries you have selected. Be aware of who’s growing. Who just got funded? Whose business is booming?
This much hasn’t changed. Networking is still the number one way to find that new position. Some tips to make it more effective?
• Be able to clearly articulate what you want. Making it clear, concise, and focused will help people understand what you are looking for. That will help them give you relevant suggestions for people to talk to. It will also make it easier for them to remember, so when they hear about that perfect job opportunity, they know to think of you.
• Take a reciprocal approach to your networking. Don’t just take. Ask people how you can help them. Look for potential connections with other people that might benefit them. Or even just offer to buy their cup of coffee.
• Have a clear reason for meeting in mind, but don’t be so rigid in your focus that you lose the opportunity to connect on a personal level. Remember networking is about building relationships.
• Follow up with a snail mail thank you note. It reflects well on you, and gives you an opportunity to be in touch with them again.
There is a lot of competition for jobs out there right now. You can’t afford to slack on your resume. Here are some tips to help you shine.
• Remember that you only have a brief glance to hook the person reading your resume. Within seconds, they should be able to tell what type of job you’re interested in, what applicable work you’ve done, and where. Once they feel there is a reason to go further, they will dig in for more information (e.g., how successful you’ve been, how long you stayed, etc.).
• Customize each one to fit the job description. Remember, you need to position yourself as strongly as possible for each and every job you apply for.
• Use key words (preferably lifted from the job description). Companies have to plow through a lot of resumes as they fill a position, especially now. Many use software to electronically scan resumes for key words to narrow down the list.
• Show how you have gotten results. How have you made the company money, saved the company money, solved a problem, etc.?
• Don’t use the functional style of resume. Recruiters find it difficult and
• Include a short sentence describing what your company did. Unless it’s a name like Microsoft or Boeing, there’s a good chance the people reading your resume might not be familiar with the company.
• Make your resume easy to read. Use lots of white space. Don’t use small or exotic fonts, and don’t change fonts or formatting a lot.
• Use bullet points – it’s easier to scan through and get the main points.
• Don’t overstate your qualifications.
• Don’t send a paper resume.
• Make sure all your contact information is accurate!
When you make contact with a company, don’t just send in the resume and wait by the phone. Be pro-active. Avoid generic HR e-mail addresses if you can possibly help it. Don’t bypass HR entirely. Get yourself in the loop. Call the company and try to get the HR or recruiting contact’s name and e-mail.
At the same time, try to find out who the hiring manager is and contact them. Your resume may get lost in the flood of resumes the recruiters deal with, and even if it doesn’t there are no guarantees that the recruiter will be able to recognize what you have to offer.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for the hiring manager. If the receptionist doesn’t give it to you, ask if they could transfer you to the head of the “____” department (whatever department that job would fall under). You can also look on the company web site, in their press releases, or articles about them to try to find potential contacts.
Make sure you’re in contact with the right person. Then e-mail your resume. Do it in the morning, then make a call to follow up, saying something like, “You may have seen the e-mail I sent this morning. Do you have a minute to talk?” Make it easy for them to key in on why you’re calling.
Be prepared with knowledge
As discussed above, when you go into an interview, do your homework first. Know what you have to offer, and what the company needs. Most importantly, go in with a defined idea of how those two fit together.
Prepare yourself for the most commonly asked interview questions (you can find many examples of these online). You’ll probably get some of them, and that’s a perfect chance to make a smooth, well-prepared impression.
Don’t forget to prepare for situational interviews – many people fall on their faces when they get these. For example, one recruiter likes people to go into great detail on what they would do in situations related to teamwork, conflict, and accomplishments.
A great way to gather additional insights for your interviews is to ask the people you have worked with what they remember about your accomplishments.
Ask questions. When you interview, ask people questions that show a natural curiosity. How long have they been there? What keeps them there? How would they describe the
company culture? It’s a good time to get a feel for what the expectations of the position will be, as well. How will success be measured in this position? What are the biggest challenges?
When asked about your weaknesses, recognize that you have them. Approach it from the perspective of, “These are my areas of growth,” or “This is how I see myself growing in this position.”
Create a tracking system
Keep track of your activity. Create a system for your search that lets you easily access where you’ve applied, who you’ve talked to, what the results were, etc. Set follow-up files, and follow up. Ask when you should follow up, and then be diligent about doing it. Remember, it’s a numbers game.
Be realistic about salaries – they’re dropping everywhere. You may not be able to get as much as you did in your last job. You may also have to come down a notch in your position, or make a lateral move. Be realistic about the time frame. Finding the right job is a long-term task. Take a look at how long you can realistically last financially. If you suspect that the end of your finances might come before the start of your next job, take steps now to change that (what expenses can you reduce or cut? Can you get a part time job?).
Find someone else who is looking for work and make them your job search partner. Meet on a regular basis, brainstorm ideas, gripe, point out each other’s positive side, and hold each other accountable.
The job search can seem really isolated, and having a job search partner, or a job search group, can help immensely. This is one of the few times that it shouldn’t be your spouse/partner. They are too wrapped up in it emotionally. An outside, objective source of support can be invaluable. It’s a numbers game.
Remember that the job search is an activity-based project and, at the end of the day, success is a numbers game. The more people you contact, the more resumes you send, and the more relationships you build, the better your chances, and the sooner you will hear those magic words…”you’re hired!”
Before you begin
Finally, if you’ve just been laid off, give yourself time to process what has happened. Give yourself time to be angry, or scared, or confused before you charge ahead with your search. You’ll be better prepared to focus your energies if you have given your emotional state some time to adjust and settle. In the end, you will get a job. Keeping the above insights in mind will ease the way.
Curt Rosengren is a Passion Catalyst and Job Search Guide based in Seattle, Washington.
Passion Catalyst –
In a coach-like role, Curt can help you get off the career treadmill, identify your passions,
and take action to create a career that resonates more deeply with who you are and
what you really want to do.
Jobsearch Jumpstart System – www.rosengren.net/jumpstart
The Jobsearch Jumpstart System gives you the tools and focused approach you need to get maximum traction and speed you on the way to “you’re hired!”
Some of Curt’s services to help you in your search include:
• Transferable skills evaluation & self-positioning
• Passion Profile
• Career Values Analysis