With the new year around the corner and the holiday season in full swing, you might think that now is the best time to send out a whole bunch of résumés so you can land interviews in January. Right?
In the wise words of Zig Ziglar, “Success occurs when opportunity meets PREPARATION”.
If you want your job search to be successful, you need to get all of your ducks in a row first.
Below is a list of the top 8 things that you should focus on NOW so that come the new year, you’ll be ready to move forward with clarity and confidence.
#1: EAT, DRINK (IN MODERATION), BUT MOST OF ALL – BE MERRY!
I’m giving you permission to take a long-needed break over the holiday season.
Waiting might sound counter intuitive, especially if you’re seeking employment, but unless your ideal company has reached out to you with what looks like the “perfect fit” and you are the only person on the planet who can do that job, your search can – and should – wait.
Firstly, most employers are winding things down by mid December and really don’t want to look at anyone new. Even if they’re interviewing over the next few weeks, those searches would have started a while ago, so you’ve likely missed the boat anyways.
Secondly, you’ve worked hard all year. Now’s the the time to hang out with family and friends, overeat, have some “holiday cheer” (not too much), and get much needed sleep.
Thirdly, if you’re stressed out and in a negative head space, you won’t present as your best self. Better to start off the new year refreshed, positive, and ready to unleash your awesomeness!!
#2: KEEP IT CLEAN!
According to Careerbuilder and Jobvite, 59% of employers use search engines to look up candidates and 41% might not interview someone if they can’t find them online.
While you want to be easily found, you have to ensure that none of your social media content comes across as the least bit “provocative or inappropriate”.
Many employers will disqualify candidates if they find evidence of anything in their social media that deals with: drugs and alcohol, badmouthing an employer, bigoted content (race, religion, gender, etc.), poor communication skills, oversharing, and – believe it or not – selfies and typos.
Since there’s no guarantee who can gain access to your information, I recommend that you clean up all of your social media – not just Linkedin. You even have to be careful as to the kind of company you keep, as that can be taken into consideration. It’s the whole “guilty by association” thing.
I know this to be true, because I witnessed quite a few very talented and worthy candidates NOT get the interviews because of the “questionable” content they posted on social media.
My rule of thumb is to be EXTREMELY careful when posting anything because you never know how it will be perceived, rightly or wrongly, and by whom.
Take time during the holidays to “google” yourself and see what comes up and then deal with it sooner than later. Then review all of your social media accounts and do a thorough cleaning.
#3: OVERHAUL YOUR RESUME
Brace yourself – this might freak you out.
On average, each job posting attracts about 250 résumés of which only 4 to 6 get selected for the interview. That means a shocking 97% to 98% of candidates are immediately disqualified.
Don’t panic – there’s a reason for this which you can overcome.
In my opinion, the huge rejection rate is because most résumés are boring, generic, irrelevant, confusing, look like crap, or all of the above. And those are the résumés from qualified candidates. A large percentage of applicants are not qualified for the position. Hence the massive rejection rate.
This is awesome news for you! You can be the lucky 2% to 3% that lands the interviews by being qualified for the jobs and creating a compelling, accomplishment-based résumé.
This is actually a complicated process, so I’m only going to touch on the main points:
i) Check your contact information for accuracy. You’d be amazed at how many résumés have the wrong phone number and/or email address.
ii) Add any new education and professional development.
iii) Add any new key contributions under the work history. Avoid making it a laundry list of “tasks” which says nothing about how well you did it.
iv) Make sure that you have a section highlighting your hard/soft skills and some key accomplishments.
v) Ditch the objective statement and create a compelling professional profile that communicates your unique value.
vi) Customize your résumé for each job application, otherwise it will probably be the 97% that doesn’t make it.
vii) Make your résumé ATS friendly so that it gets past the dreaded computer applicant tracking system.
These are just the broad strokes. There are a bunch of other things, but like I said – it’s complicated.
If you’re launching a job search in 2018, I highly recommend you get your résumé professionally written, because the vast majority that I review are not properly optimized to get through the computer ATS and the human reader. Both have numerous elimination criteria that need to be addressed.
What I recommend you do is sign up for a complimentary “6-second scan” Résumé Review by clickling on this link. I’ll skim your document just as a recruiter would to let you know how likely it will get through the computer ATS and human reader. Most do not.
#4: CREATE A STELLAR COVER LETTER
According to Careerbuilder, 45% of recruiters will reject your résumé if you don’t include a cover letter while 40% expect one.
Resist the temptation to create a generic letter. You need to treat it like the résumé and tailor it for each position and showcase your accomplishments. You should also explain, why you are interested in the position, what expertise you can bring to the table, and why they should hire you.
A cover letter can help you address anything a résumé can’t, like work gaps, a string of short term work, a lack of years of experience, and other things in order to address potential “red flags” head-on.
It also allows you to highlight certain things that are important that can’t adequately be expressed in the résumé. Things like, your ability to relocate, your transferable skills, your willingness to travel for work, etc. Mentioning things like this can tip the scales in your favour.
By personalizing your cover letter and addressing the job requirements, the company’s mission statement, and anything else that shows that you’ve actually read the job description and reviewed the company website, you will improve your chances of being selected as a potential candidate.
You can get started on fleshing out a generic, accomplishment-based cover letter now but you will still have to customize it for each position.
#5: OPTIMIZE YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE
According to Jobvite, 87% of employers use Linkedin to check candidates.
This is why you need to make sure that your Linkedin profile is fully optimized so that you come up in search strings and attract the best-match jobs in your preferred industries.
Besides the obvious things like making sure you have no typos, that all of the information is current and correct in all sections of your profile, there are a few key things you should address:
Photo: If you don’t have a photo, you should. But not a selfie.
According to studies, you will get 11 times more views and 40% more Inmail responses if you include a simple, yet professional-looking photo. It should be a head and shoulder shot that is well lit, fills the space, and is just you. No spouse, no pets, no kids. Smile and wear appropriate clothing.
Headline: Complete the 120-character headline with relevant keywords which communicate your expertise/value.
Location: Make sure you indicate where you live because most employers will search by location.
Your Name and Designations: You can add designations after your name such as P.Eng., type of degree (BSc, etc.), PMP, etc. but nothing other than that.
Summary: Complete the 2000-character summary, as it will help with the ranking of your profile. Don’t cut and paste the profile from your résumé. It’s too short and might not be appropriate in this scenario.
Work Experience: Update your work experience with any new jobs and/or key contributions. Make sure that the dates and information matches your résumé, otherwise it could be perceived as a “red flag”.
Skills (Endorsements): You can list up to 50. Make sure that you put the most important three at the top because these are ones that people will see without having to click on the “see more skills” button.
Your Linkedin profile is NOT targeted to a specific job with a specific employer, so don’t just cut and paste your résumé into your profile. It needs to be modified for a broader audience.
#6: GET YOUR REFERENCES IN ORDER
An important part of the job search process is providing strong references. They are usually given closer to the offer stage, but some employers want to see them sooner, so you need to be prepared for that.
Err on the side of caution and contact everyone you can think of who could give you a good reference. Collect the phone numbers and email address they prefer to use and list your references in a professional-looking document that’s ready to be presented in a moment’s notice.
Your reference list should include the referee’s first and last name, the name of the company where you both worked, the referee’s job title at the time you worked together, and the nature of your working relationship. Were they your direct supervisor, a peer, client, supplier, or something else?
Most employers want at least three strong references. At least one or two of them should be from someone you reported to directly. The other references will depend on the employer’s preferences.
Never include references on your résumé or cover letter, because you should prep the referees before the employer contacts them – just like a recruiter would prep you for the interview.
#7: TARGET YOUR JOB SEARCH
If you want to attract your ideal employer, industry, and position, you have to go “niche”. This is marketing 101.
Decide on what type of positions you are interested in and have the qualifications for and focus on a specific industry and/or job function to generate the best outcome. You have a better chance of generating momentum if you start off applying to positions that you’re most qualified for.
You can always broaden your search down the road but you run the risk of not getting the response you want. Employers typically want to hire someone with at least 80% of what they’re seeking in a candidate so you’d have to have a killer résumé that clearly shows your transferable skills among other things.
Make a list of the companies you want to work for and visit their website and social media to see if they’re looking for someone like you. If not, you can start networking with hiring managers at those companies to start a conversation, but that’s a whole other topic of discussion.
#8: SET GOALS, MAKE A SCHEDULE, AND WRITE IT DOWN!
Looking for a new job can be an arduous task which is why setting defined targets is a good idea. Without having some milestones to reach, you can get easily sidetracked with activities that aren’t going to get you closer to landing interviews.
This is where time management comes in. Decide how many hours per day or week you are going to devote to your job search, what activities you need to engage in, and schedule this into your calendar. If you don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.
Also, just because you’re “busy” doesn’t mean you’re “productive”. You want to make sure you’re investing in the “right” activities that are going to get you closer to landing the interview.
I leverage over 10 years recruitment and sales/marketing experience to create attention-grabbing résumés, cover letters, and Linkedin profiles that help job seekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired.
Need help? That’s what I’m here for!
Are you in the midst of a job search and not getting the results you want?
Are you’re thinking of making a change and want to put your best foot forward but aren’t sure how and are reluctant to get started?
Then I recommend you reach out for some help. You can contact me directly here!
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