I have had several readers and listeners (of the podcast) mention being laid off recently. A couple of these individuals have asked what I (as a business owner) might suggest for someone trying to position themselves as a competitive candidate. Job searching can be daunting, but with the right approach, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job. To make sure you position yourself as a strong candidate, consider the following steps.
Research the Company and the Job
Before applying for a job, it’s important to understand the company culture and specific requirements of the job you are interested in. This will give you a good sense of whether you would be a good fit for the company, and it will help you tailor your resume and cover letter to show how your skills, experience, and accomplishments match the needs of the company. More importantly, it will give you plenty to discuss with your potential employer regarding what you bring to the table and how it will help the organization reach its vision.
Start by researching the company’s history, vision, and values. Look at their website, social media pages, and press releases or news articles to get a feel for the company’s vision and goals. Also, read the job description carefully, and note the skills and qualifications required for the role. Make sure you understand what the company is looking for, and be prepared to show how you fit the bill. However, know that you do not need to fit the skill profile perfectly. You are shooting for roughly an 80% match.
Update Your Resume and Keep it Current
Your resume and cover letter are your first chance to make an impression on a potential employer. Make sure these documents accurately reflect your skills, experience, and accomplishments. Highlight your relevant experience, and use keywords related to the job description to make your resume and cover letter more search engine optimized (SEO) and increase your chances of being seen by recruiters.
Indeed.com is an excellent resource for organizing your resume and cover letter. You can use their templates to create professional-looking documents that showcase your strengths and make you stand out from other candidates. You might also consider hiring a resume writer if you feel weak in this area. Resume writing is a skill that even I struggled with.
I believe that networking is a vital part of the job search process. This is especially true if you are not successful with the various job websites. Reach out to your professional network and let them know you are looking for a new job.
Here is a cool tip. Get some basic business cards and print out resumes and cover letters. Then attend some industry events and conferences, and make new connections. Engage in conversations and hand your cards out to every organization that you’re interested in and a resume to every organization that expresses interest in you.
You might also consider reaching out to individuals who work in the same industry or at the company you are interested in and ask for informational interviews to learn more about the company and the role. This will not only give you valuable insights into the company and the job, but it will also give you a chance to build relationships and make a good impression on potential employers.
Acquire New Skills
It is important to stay current and relevant. You might need to retool. Consider acquiring new skills or certifications that will make you a more valuable candidate for your desired job. Whether it’s learning a new software program, taking a course in a related field, or getting certified in a specific area, the investment you make in yourself will pay off in the long run – even if you do not land the job or switch industries. Knowledge is power, and the more you have, the more valuable you become.
Highlight Your Unique Skills and Experience
Remember that your skills and experience set you apart from other candidates, so it’s important to emphasize what makes you unique. Don’t hold back. Include specific certifications, languages, or technical skills. Make sure you highlight these on your resume and cover letter, and be prepared to discuss them in your interviews. Bonus points will likely be awarded when you explain how a seemingly unrelated skill or experience can be transferred and applied to the role you seek.
Prepare for Interviews
Finally, it’s essential to be well-prepared for interviews—mastery through repetition. Brush up on your interview skills, and practice answering common interview questions. Research the companies you are applying to, and don’t be too easy. Too many assume that a company is interviewing you. However, like any relationship, we must remember it is a two-way street. When you go to your interview, come prepared with questions. This will show your interest in the company and the role and give you a better understanding of what the company is looking for. Most importantly, it will demonstrate that you are a thinker who seeks to make good decisions.
The Follow Up
If you have an interview, you need to follow up after the interview. This can include sending a thank-you note to the interviewer, expressing appreciation for their time, and reiterating interest in the role. This can help keep your name top of mind with the employer and provide an opportunity to address any areas you might have stumbled on during the interview. However, there is a process for this.
When following up, start with a simple thank-you note sent within 24 hours after the initial interview. If the hiring team did not make their decision timeline clear, wait at least five business days before reaching out for the follow-up. If they do not reply, or do not respond, move on. You likely wouldn’t want to work for an organization willing to string you along. This behavior is indicative of either a cultural issue or a professionalism issue.
I hope these tips help. Remember, you will not be a perfect fit for many organizations, and many organizations will not be a good fit for you. However, following these tips can increase your chances of landing a great job. Keep your head up, and good luck!