What To Do When Your Job Search Isn’t Working (Part 2)

 In Job Search Strategy

Last month we talked about the first steps in evaluating why your job search may be stalled – 1) Examine your career vision and 2) Re-examine your résumé. (If you missed this article, just ask and I’ll resend.) Today we move into the mechanics of your job search.

Assess How You’re Conducting Your Job Search

Once you have your résumé and cover letter, the next step is to get them in the hands of a decision-maker who has the authority to interview you — and, hopefully, offer you the job (or at least advance your job search).

There are four major ways to search for a job.

1. Applying for Job Postings Online

This is where most jobseekers spend their time, but most people won’t find their dream job by applying for posted positions. Research suggests that only 2-4% of jobseekers land a job using Internet job boards. Most large companies receive between 200 and 10,000 résumés a month — the majority of these come from online applications for jobs they’ve posted.

There are many places where jobs are posted online. These can include the hiring company’s website or LinkedIn Company Page, niche websites (like Dice.com for information technology jobs, or JobsInLogistics.com), aggregator sites (such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, or Indeed.com), social media (some companies will post job openings on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), or even Craigslist.

The aggregator sites — also known as the “big boards” — aren’t as effective as they used to be. Listing fees have increased while success rates have declined. However, you shouldn’t discount them entirely. If you see a job posting on a big board, go directly to the employer’s website and see if the position is listed there as well. By applying through the company’s website, you’ll not only get the chance to research the company, you might be able to identify a hiring decision-maker directly. And if you are able to find the hiring manager’s name, follow up your online application with a résumé and cover letter by mail. But remember, once a position is advertised, the competition for it can be overwhelming.

2. Employment Agencies/Recruiters

For certain kinds of jobs, companies pay third parties (recruiters or employment agencies) to screen and recommend potential employees.

These jobs usually fall into three areas:

  • Positions paying under $30,000 a year (usually administrative jobs) — these are usually filled by employment agencies on a temp or temp-to-hire basis.
  • Specialized positions where a closely-defined skill set is desired (for example, information technology jobs).
  • Managers and executives making in excess of $75,000. These jobs are not usually advertised.

The most important thing to recognize about working with recruiters is that they work for the hiring company, not for you. They only get paid if they make a successful placement. Because you’re not paying for the service, sending a résumé to one of these companies is a good idea, but it won’t always result in success — or even a return phone call.

You can find recruiters online; use Google to search “Recruiter and [city name] and [job title]” or through searching on LinkedIn. Also, look in the newspaper classifieds or your industry trade journal for recruiting firms advertising for candidates in your skill area.

It’s fine to work with multiple recruiters. The more recruiter contacts you have, the larger your network, and the greater the number of opportunities that will present themselves. Recruiter relationships are generally not exclusive. Start with 2-3 and expand your contacts if you’re not getting results. But be honest if you’re asked who else you are working with.

And, don’t discount the resources offered by CareerOneStop (http://www.careeronestop.org/) or American Job Center (http://jobcenter.usa.gov/). Local or state employment agencies can also help connect you to employers in your area.

3. Networking

Networking remains one of the best job search strategies you can use to find your next job — or your dream job — but it’s probably the least understood method. Many jobseekers think networking means alerting the people you know that you want a new job. But it’s more than that. Your network is most valuable when you can ask for help in identifying job leads, obtaining information, getting advice, and/or making referrals. For example, if you want to work at a specific company, ask people in your network if they know anyone who currently works for — or used to work for — “Company X.” Then, ask for an introduction to that person, and ask them about the company, culture, and hiring practices.

It’s important to actively develop and cultivate your network. This can include: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents of your friends, relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, your doctor, financial advisor, attorney, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, clients, and community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.).

Here are some more opportunities to develop your network:

  • Attend networking events (i.e., those hosted by your professional organization, Chamber of Commerce, tip groups, etc.).
  • Volunteer either for your industry association or any charitable organizations.
  • Participate in online communities; LinkedIn groups, an alumni site or your trade association’s website.
  • Join – and get involved with – your professional association.

The single biggest mistake most jobseekers make is not asking for help from their network. People want to help you — so let them!

4. Direct Contact

Tap into the so-called “hidden job market” by using the direct contact job search method. Remember: Companies hire people to solve their problems.

Make a list of companies you’d like to work for and then research them online. Also, read the newspaper and trade journals to learn about companies that are expanding, moving into your area, etc. For example, if a company is hiring a lot of production workers they will likely need additional managers. If you’re looking for a Customer Service Supervisor job, look for a company that is hiring lots of customer service representatives.

It’s estimated that 30-75% of jobs are not advertised. How are these positions being filled? Through networking and direct contact. How do you make direct contact? Call, use your network for an introduction, send an email, or write a targeted cover letter and send it with your résumé.

But the real key to success is following up. When using direct contact, persistence is the key!

Do your homework about companies you are interested in. Always research the company. The basic information you need is: Who to direct your résumé to within the company and whether the company has jobs (or job possibilities) that match your area of interest, education, and/or expertise. You can’t just send a general letter to “HR” or one addressed to “President, ABC Company.” You have to send it to a person. The best people to contact are managers and executives (not HR!).

Every unsolicited résumé you send should be accompanied by a personalized, targeted cover letter. You are simply “spamming” potential employers when you mass mail 10, 20, or 100 résumés without researching them individually and customizing a cover letter. Even if you have the most creative résumé, without supporting documentation, you’re probably wasting your time.

When you send out a résumé, mention what your next step is — for example, “I will be contacting you within the week.” Make a note in your calendar and then follow up as promised. When you’re “spamming” employers, you lose the ability to closely follow up on the résumés you’ve sent. Ten résumés and cover letters that you follow up on are better than 100 résumés with no follow-up.

Follow up on letters with a phone call. If you call and don’t get a response, send an email. Leverage your network to get personal introductions. Your efforts will yield interviews. You can dramatically increase your chances of being interviewed and receiving a job offer by following up with both your network and the person with the power to hire you in an effort to positively influence the selection process.

In conclusion, my best advice:  Job search is like fishing; the more lines you get in the water the quicker you’ll get a bite. However, consider how effective each “pond” is and spend more of your time on high-impact tactics like networking and direct contact

Kathy Keshemberg is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and Certified Career Management Coach. Since 1983, she has created thousands of interview-winning resumes and related job-search materials for satisfied clients around the world. Need assistance with your career? We’re here to help! www.acareeradvantage.com

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