Optimize Your Job Search With These Helpful Hints

Looking for a new job can be an exhausting exercise, even for incredibly polished candidates with stellar resumes and Toastmasters-level presentation skills.

I’m here to share a few ways to prepare, research, target, and follow through on opportunities so the job search feels less like an uphill battle and more like surfing a wave.

Whether you’re actively searching for a new role or you’re flipping through job postings casually on weekends, here's what you can do.

Stage 1: Preparation

This step can make or break your job search. If your resume isn’t up to date or you don’t know the kinds of opportunities you want to attract, you’re shorting yourself right off the bat. It’s always worth it to be prepared.

Start In-Network

It can be hard to know where to start, and the best place for that are the people who you already know. Friends can provide advice on their own past job searches and companies they’ve looked at. The people you’ve worked with before are often best at understanding your work styles and ideal team environment.

Given that your own network can be the best advocates for your job search, Searchlight helps you collect recommendations from your colleagues and, even better, use them to send direct referrals to talent teams who are hiring.

While it may be difficult to ask for help, you can’t ignore the power of a referral — getting a referral into a company leads you to be 5-10 times more likely to get an interview over simply applying online. 

Have a few low-pressure conversations with your close circle, and before you know it, you’ll have a list of companies and roles that’s a solid jumping off point for the rest of your job search.

Get Specific 

It can be tempting to feel like casting a wide net improves your chances of finding the right opportunity. Unfortunately, a job search that isn’t rooted in a specific list of qualifiers can get out of hand fast and cause burnout. You have to focus in by guiding your search using one or more of the following criteria to weed out unsuitable opportunities:

  • Industry or organization size
  • Seniority or title
  • Location (city, country, state)

You will have an easier time finding appropriate open positions if you know what you don’t want.

Don’t be afraid to cross companies off your list if they don’t meet your qualifications. Each application is an investment of your time of anywhere from 2-25 hours. If your commute is killing you, for example, pick a geographical location that is within an established radius to your home. If you want a remote position, don’t settle, no matter how tempting the position seems. 

Set Up Alerts

The beauty of technology is that it can be programmed to do the grunt work for you. Once you have your qualifiers listed, set up job alerts with your preferred job search sites. I suggest creating an email address specifically for your job search so that you’re not bombarded at your personal or (whoops!) work email address. 

Constantly Curate Your Resume and Cover Letters

This is a lot easier to get right than most people realize. 

Your resume is a one-stop-shop for a hiring manager to see your career story and what you bring to the table. This doesn’t mean that you have to list off every job that you’ve had since you were 18 or agonize over it for countless hours. Curate your resume to include a few relevant and impressive points. 

Here are some other must do’s: 

  • Be concise. There’s nothing a hiring manager loves more than a tight one-page resume. It can help to create a master doc with your whole work history and select specific experience to create tailored one-pager resumes as needed.
  • Omit tasks on your resume that you don’t wish to do in your new role.
  • Use statistics to speak for your accomplishments instead of flowery adjectives.
  • Optimize your resume using keywords. The best place to find them is right on the job description itself.
  • Use storytelling in your cover letter.
  • Write your cover letter as if you’re writing it about a colleague you admire — this is not the place to be humble.

Practice the Interview

Before you interview, it can help to get a sense of anticipated interview questions. Perform a series of mock interviews with a friend or record yourself answering the questions and look for areas to improve. A helpful framework for answering questions is the STAR method. 

Don’t worry, the questions they ask you will most likely be different, so you won’t sound like a robot. The idea here is to get comfortable thinking on your feet and squashing insecurities before you’re sitting in front of the talent team. You worked hard, so let’s make the most of it.

Stage 2: Research

Tips for expediting your job search

Since the job application process can be quite a heavy investment of your time, it can be worth it to do a quick scan of your LinkedIn network to see who works within the companies or industries that you’re interested in. Setting up an informational interview or coffee with them is a great way to get candid answers to your questions. 

Stage 3: Targeting 

Targeting may conjure images of James Bond but it’s just about maximizing your chances by making strategic communication choices. Below are a few examples. 

The Numbers Game

It’s good to keep in mind that your job search is very much a numbers game. Even with the perfect application, a change in budget or members of the talent team can banish your application to a dusty ghostpile.

While applications should always remain focused around what you want in your next role, you want to have a rolling list of fresh positions each week to increase your odds and fill the well. Set up job alerts from relevant websites and make sure you bookmark the roles that stand out to you in your inbox. Don’t wait more than three days to apply to them.

Grow Your Network 

Eighty-five percent of available jobs are not posted, so your job search needs to reach beyond traditional methods to reach the hidden job market. Spending 100% of your time on 15% of the opportunity is not a great investment of your energy. Instead, research networking events that revolve around the industry or position you are looking for. 

Follow relevant thought leaders on Twitter and engage with them. I’ve made many meaningful career connections over Twitter and am constantly learning from the feeds of those whom I admire in my industry.

The point of networking is to immerse yourself in the places you wish to be going in your career in order to build connections to get you there. Joining a professional association, attending a presentation, or even contributing to an online forum or conversation may put you squarely in the right place and the right time. 

Word of Mouth

Tell everyone you’re looking for a job. Well, almost everyone. You probably don’t want your boss to know about your discrete job search. Don’t let that scare you out of using your network to cultivate meaningful leads and connections. Tell your dental hygienist, your best friend’s mom —  even telling your favorite barista could yield unexpected results. Don’t overthink it too much, just be thoughtful in your approach.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Avoid making your job search the first thing you mention in every conversation. Ease in.
  • Don’t spam your online network with a mass message even if it seemingly saves time. Personalization is key.
  • Don’t stray off the path of what you want. Be specific about the roles you are interested in.

Stage 4: Follow Up 

No matter what stage of your job search you’re at, it’s absolutely essential to follow up with those who helped you along the way. This could be the recruiter, hiring manager, or friend of a friend who referred you. This can be anything from a DM on LinkedIn to a thank you card mailed to their office. 

Handwritten thank you cards are a secret weapon for any in-person interviews. If it’s between you and a similarly qualified candidate, the one who took the time to send a thoughtful note wins every time.

A Bonus Tip for a Seamless Job Search

Helpful hints to optimize your job search

I really believe that a solid professional reputation will be the thing to guide you to those open doors. While nothing can replace the preparation, research, targeting, and follow-up activities we talked about, keeping connected to your larger goals with meaningful support can mean a lot. 

A great way to check in and see how you’re doing professionally is to hire a career coach. They’ll help you to recognize your abilities, reveal them like a key ingredient that you didn’t know you had, and connect you to a career where you feel naturally motivated. For low-key, accessible help, try I’m Happy to Help as a starting place. Often the simple act of having a career plan along with an accountability partner is just the ticket for a highly effective job search that leads to the best possible role for you.

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