You’re looking for a new job and you haven’t been as successful as you would like. That is, you haven’t been hired, in spite of all the effort you’ve put in.
The fact is, looking for a new job is hard and stressful, even if you’re not changing careers. And, it’s a lot harder than it used to be: There are hundreds of applicants for each position advertised. Applicant Tracking Software systems are used to screen for keywords and sift through those hundreds of resumes, before a human being sees your document. Even if you’re perfectly qualified for the position, you may not get noticed because your resume didn’t have the correct keywords in the right places.
The whole process feels random.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can develop tools and follow processes that can make you more successful.
A couple of items to keep in mind throughout your search:
- Organizations hire people because they have a problem that needs solving. They don’t hire because they have a vacancy. They save money on vacancies; and
- People hire people they know, or people they know know. That is, people who are referred to them by people they know.
So to be successful in your search, you need to know the organization’s problem and demonstrate that you know how to solve it; and you need to know someone who can provide access to the organization; someone from your network.
Know Your Professional Value
It is critical that you can articulate your professional value to a prospective employer. You need to demonstrate that you’ve successfully addressed the problems/challenges with which they’re confronted.
Remember, organizations hire because they have problems that need to be solved. You need to be the solution to their problem. Your professional value — sometimes referred to as “personal or professional brand” is the first step in aligning your qualifications and skill to their challenges.
Key questions to ask yourself in determining your professional value:
- What are my top strengths and skills? (Don’t include loyal, punctual, quick learner.)
- What is it I do really well? (Can you answer in a sentence or two?)
- What am I most proud of in my career and how does it relate to the employer’s problem?
One way to demonstrate professional value is to tell brief stories about how you’ve been successful in past roles. We encourage clients to use the SAR model:
- S = Situation, the problem statement;
- A = Action, the actions you took to address the problem;
- R = Results, the impacts of your actions on the problem.
Fitting your success stories to the SAR model helps clearly and concisely demonstrate your professional value.
Once you have your stories developed, you can integrate them into your resume and cover letter customized to the employer’s needs as outlined in the position description.
Leverage Your Network
Remember, people hire people they know or people who are referred to them by people they know. Leverage your network — the people you’ve met professionally and personally. Let them know what you’re looking for and how your professional value fits that target.
LinkedIn is an essential component of your job search. Whether you already have a job or are unemployed, you should create a compelling presence on LinkedIn.
Recruiters and HR managers source many of their candidates through LinkedIn. This means that talent search professionals seek qualified people for the jobs they have through LinkedIn.
Being on LinkedIn is about articulating your professional value and marketing yourself. It is about getting noticed by people who matter — people who just might be interested in hiring you for a new job or people who might be your next best clients or professional colleagues.
It’s one thing to have a strong, compelling profile on LinkedIn; but, the real power of LinkedIn is in leveraging your connections to gain access to decision makers in organizations you target.
You should never have to make a cold call in your networking efforts. Use your strong connections to introduce you to hiring managers and other decision makers that they know.
Nail the Interview
Once you have an interview with the organization you’ve targeted and applied to, you need to be prepared to articulate your professional value verbally.
You need to research the people you’re meeting. Again, LinkedIn is a good resource. By the way, if you’ve masked your privacy settings so that people can’t tell it’s you that viewing their profile, you need to change them. You want the people you’ll be interviewing with to know that you’ve looked at their profiles.
You need to research the company. Use your network for this. What do your professional colleagues know? And, of course, there’s always the internet. If the organization has been in the news lately, you’d better know that.
Know how to dress for the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask about the dress code for the organization, then dress above it.
Know what to take (extra copies of your resume; don’t assume those you’re meeting with will have copies). Know what to leave behind (your cell phone).
Be prepared to respond to questions about your experience and value. Use the SAR model to demonstrate concise examples of your value. Know what questions you want to ask in the interview, which ones will emphasize your value, and which one’s not to ask. Know how to ask about next steps in their process and how to ask for the position.
Follow up with a note of thanks and how you’re a perfect candidate for the role. Emphasize the issues that were raised in the interview.
A successful job search entails knowing your professional value and being able to articulate it verbally (in interviews and with your network), virtually (via LinkedIn) and in writing (resumes and cover letters).