Job hunting? Set yourself up for success

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Job hunting? Set yourself up for success

Job hunting? Consider these practical tips to boost your odds of success.

No one said finding a job would be easy. But you can minimize the stress and boost your odds of success. Consider these practical tips on finding job openings, presenting yourself positively in a resume and interview — and seeking help along the way.

Job openings: Finding opportunities

Looking for a job takes commitment. If you're not working, devote as much time to job hunting as you'd expect to spend in the actual position. If you're looking for a new job while you're working, set aside time every day for job hunting. Here are a few places to start your search:

  • Personal contacts. Ask friends, neighbors, relatives, former colleagues and other contacts if they know of any job opportunities in your area of interest.
  • Print media. Check the help-wanted section of your local newspaper. Many trade magazines — available at your local library — publish job openings as well.
  • Internet. Browse general employment Web sites, as well as the sites of professional associations in your field and specific businesses you might like to work for. Post your resume on appropriate Web sites.
  • Job fairs. Job fairs — often sponsored by colleges, universities and trade associations — bring a group of prospective employers together in one place. You can talk to representatives from several different companies on the same day. Dress as you would for an interview and bring copies of your resume.
  • Job services. Local job placement services may offer career counseling, job listings, and help writing resumes and cover letters. Your state or county employment office may offer such services for free.

Resume and cover letter: Putting the package together

A resume details your work experience and qualifications. The cover letter is a way to introduce yourself to a potential employer and make a case for why the employer should consider your application. If you're not sure where to start, pattern your resume and cover letter after examples in job-search books or on employment Web sites. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Be clear and concise. Include only relevant information in your resume. Keep it short and easy to read.
  • Give yourself credit. Don't sell yourself short when detailing your skills and qualifications. Clearly identify your strengths — but be careful not to embellish or stretch the truth.
  • Tailor your message. Avoid generic resumes and cover letters. Tweak your resume and cover letter toward each particular employer or opening.
  • Make a good impression. Carefully check your resume and cover letter for misspellings, poor grammar and sloppiness. If you're submitting hard copies of your resume and cover letter, use high-quality paper.
  • Follow up. Don't let your resume and cover letter go unnoticed in a stack of resumes. Follow up with a phone call or letter to the search firm, employer or hiring manager.

Interview skills: Making a good impression

Landing an interview is an accomplishment. Take pride in the fact that the employer sees potential in you — but the job isn't yours yet. The key to interviewing success is being prepared.

  • Plan ahead. Decide in advance what you're going to wear. Make sure you know exactly where you're going and how to get there. Gather work samples or other items you plan to take to the interview.
  • Anticipate interview questions. Think through your answers to possible interview questions. Role play with a friend or family member.
  • Research the employer. Find out as much as you can about your prospective employer. Your knowledge will demonstrate to the employer your degree of interest in the job.
  • Pay attention to your appearance. Clean, wrinkle-free clothing appropriate for the position you're seeking is a must.
  • Be on time. Allow plenty of time for traffic jams and finding the right building. When you arrive, take a moment to collect your thoughts and calm yourself.
  • Keep it positive. Speaking negatively reflects poorly on you. Maintain an upbeat attitude — even if you've experienced difficult work environments in the past.
  • Ask questions. Come prepared with questions for your prospective employer. You're evaluating the employer just as much as the employer is evaluating you.
  • Provide references. Identify some people who can vouch for your character and your work abilities, such as former supervisors, colleagues or instructors.

Consider each interview as a learning opportunity. In some cases, you might decide the job isn't right for you after all. Regardless of the outcome, you'll have a better sense of what to do — and what not to do — the next time.

Follow up: Sealing the deal

After your interview, write a thank you note to the person — or people — you met. Such a note serves two purposes: It shows your appreciation for the meeting, and it keeps your name fresh in the minds of those evaluating candidates.

If you're interested in the position but you haven't heard anything for several weeks, follow up with a phone call to the hiring manager or human resources contact. Ask about the status of the candidate search and restate your interest in the position. Ask for a timeline on the decision.

In the meantime, keep networking and searching for job openings. You never know when the perfect job will open up.

Last Updated: 10/06/2006
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