5 Back-to-Basics Job Search Tips
Looking for a job right now? If so, you’re probably getting plenty of advice. From old friends and colleagues to experts on social media, there are plenty of folks out there who want to guide your search.
The problem is that even well-intentioned insights can be less than helpful if they don’t apply to your situation or goals. Further, you only have so much time to devote to a job search—without cloning yourself, you can’t possibly do everything everyone says you “should” be doing to get hired.
How to Fast Track Your Job Search
If this is your situation right now, take heart and tune out the noise. Going back to basics will help you get your job search back on track.
1. Assess Your Needs and Plan a Strategy
Are you looking for your dream job—or are you just trying to keep the lights on? Both things can be true, by the way, but before you start searching in earnest, it’s important to have a firm grasp of your short- and long-term goals.
To do that, you need to assess your needs. If you’re like many Americans, you don’t have much in the way of an emergency fund. So, if you’re job searching while unemployed, your top priority might be to find a way to make money, fast. Consider part-time jobs, freelance work, or temp jobs to pay the bills while you conduct your search.
Once you’ve determined your goals and filled those short-term needs, you can settle in for the long haul—and it’s important to accept that it might be a long haul. Surveys show that it can take several months to find a job. It’s not just you: this really is a long, tricky, time-consuming process. Plan to do a little each day, whether it’s pruning your resume, looking for job listings, or keeping in touch with networking contacts.
And don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process. Job searching can be stressful, and it’s essential to incorporate self-care in your process.
Tip: Before you start actively seeking employment, review these tips to ensure that you’re ready to job search so you can get to a quick start.
2. Build a Resume You Can Tweak for Any Job
When was the last time you updated your resume? If it’s been over a year—or you’re actively job searching—it’s time for an edit. Make sure your resume is highlighting your most relevant experience and cut anything that’s outdated, including old jobs that no longer relate to your current career goals and lines like “references upon request.”
Starting from scratch? Use one of the many free resume templates available online to create a basic document, which you can then customize for each opportunity. And do customize it—a targeted resume is essential for a successful job search. Remember that hiring managers want to interview candidates who are interested in that specific job, not just any job.
3. Match Your Qualifications to the Job Description
Get out of the habit of skimming job postings. Instead, dig into the details provided to learn which of your qualifications will be most impressive to the hiring team. Look for keywords related to the skills, abilities, and experience required and then match your qualifications to the job in your resume, cover letter, and interviews.
4. Create a Targeted Cover Letter
In an era when job seekers in many industries have multiple social media profiles, online resumes, and portfolios, it might seem strange to labor over a cover letter. Doesn’t a cover letter just restate what your other documents, profiles, and sites already reveal?
Well, yes and no. It’s true that a hiring manager could probably figure out from your (well-organized, targeted) resume that you’re the perfect candidate for the job. But given that recruiters typically spend seconds reviewing a resume, there’s a good chance that they’d miss how awesome you are.
A targeted cover letter gives you a chance to tell that story yourself. Again, templates are your friend here, but you’ll need to customize your letter for each opportunity. Remember that even when job titles are similar, employers’ requirements will be different, even if subtly so.
5. Find Job Leads Quickly
When you’re looking for a job, time is of the essence. You simply don’t have hours to waste searching in the wrong places or talking to the wrong people. To maximize your job hunting time, look for job leads:
- On job search sites. Use the best job search sites, best job search engines, and niche sites to find job listings that are right for you. Search by keyword and location and sign up for email alerts based on your focus.
Tip: Use CareerOneStop’s one-stop job search resource to search for jobs on NLx, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter with a single click.
- Through social media. Social media can help you find job listings, build your professional network, and create a personal brand. It’s also an easy way to let your contacts know that you’re searching for work.
- Through friends and colleagues. Networking remains one of the best ways to find a job, with some experts estimating that as many as 85% of jobs are filled via referral. Best of all, networking can support other methods of finding job leads. For example, if you find a job listing that looks promising on LinkedIn, you might remember that you have a contact at the employer and ask them to put in the good word.
- At your college career services office. Many colleges offer free job search assistance to alumni for life. So even if you graduated long ago, it’s worth reaching out to your college career services office to see if they can hook you up with leads, resume help, interview coaching, and more.
- Via informational interviews. Via LinkedIn or your professional network, connect with hiring managers at employers where you’d love to work. Set up informational interviews to learn more about the company culture, potential job opportunities, and employee requirements. Note: These meetings typically do not lead directly to job openings, so don’t plan on targeting roles during your first conversations. However, they are a chance to build a relationship with folks on the inside and get an idea of how to present yourself as an ideal candidate.
- Through professional associations. Join industry groups and associations and gain a built-in support network of people in your field. Get advice from people who really understand your career and stay in the loop on emerging trends, opportunities, and resources.