Job Search

Three Best Practices for a Successful Job Search

by Crystal Campbell, ACPC, PCC

Landing a job in any economy is a competitive pursuit. There are bound to be other qualified candidates applying alongside you. Taping into lessons learned from your own experiences and following the three best practices (BP) below can help catapult you ahead. While there are no guarantees, you’ll likely significantly increase your odds of emerging triumphant in the job search process by applying these key principles.

BP 1: Cultivate Your Connections

Business is built on human connections. So your job search will be more successful if you go beyond simply responding to employment postings. Remember the people factor and network. Networking, whether you choose to connect with others through face-to-face or electronic communication, offers many benefits. It can provide a means to clearly share your specific career goals, and for others to help you access current and potential job opportunities. Certain electronic mediums, such social networking sites and blogs, can also help you foster professional links with others and even establish you as an expert in your field. Since employers are often risk adverse, they are more likely to select a candidate who has professional credibility over a candidate who has zero or low profile/ associations with others.

Take a two-pronged approach to networking. Connect with existing contacts and expand your list of associates. By all means, link up with your friends, family, former work colleagues, neighbours, suppliers, etc. These people know you well and will be some of your best advocates. At the same time, reach out to individuals who are beyond your immediate circle. You can develop new relationships with peers and decision-makers by participating in conferences and professional association meetings, joining a message board, taking continuing education and recreation courses, volunteering, etc. There are opportunities for you to connect with others each day if you’re open to them. These acquaintances can in turn unlock new career avenues and job leads.

BP 2: Follow-Up On All Applications

Once you’ve submitted your customized Curriculum Vitae (CV) and cover letter, don’t let the ball drop. Follow-up on your application. Consider phoning the hiring manager or contact individual to ask one or two relevant questions and request a meeting. For instance, you might inquire when the anticipated start date is for the position (if it’s not provided), if they require any additional information from you, and when would be a convenient date and time to schedule a meeting. Initiating this call is a definite win-win. It can assist the manager by giving him or her a glimpse into who you are and how you handle yourself. Plus, it can be a means for you to make a favourable impression early in the selection process. Even if you’re not the right candidate, connecting with this decision-maker by phone or in person is an opportunity to establish rapport and add a new colleague to your professional network.

BP 3: Be Interview Ready

The truth is that when it comes to landing the job, the interview is the single most important event in the job search process. That’s because 90% to 95% of the selection decision is tied to the interview. Managers and interviewers generally place greater confidence in what they see and hear directly from candidates than what they read in their resumes, cover letters and application forms. With so much at stake, this best practice is about coming to the interview prepared.

Visit the company’s website and look at recent press releases. Learn about its history, mandate, products and/or services, vision and critical issues. If the company has posted white papers on its website, read them. If you’re new to the field, conduct online research to identify the industry leaders and what patterns/trends are occurring in the marketplace.

Know the first and last name of the person who will be interviewing you along with his/her title. Plus, see if there’s a bio on the company’s website. It’s often easier to establish a connection if you’re genuinely familiar with and interested in the interviewer before you meet him/her.

Review the job description and be ready to answer questions about your skills, experience and fit for the job. Make sure you have several PAR (problem, action, results) stories prepared so that you can describe a specific challenge and how you handled it. Plus have one or two questions lined up about the company and the role. Ask sincere questions that will help you better understand the job opportunity rather than simply asking questions for the sake of asking questions. Finally, arrive with an attitude that shows you are positive, enthusiastic and personable. A can-do approach will carry a tremendous amount of weight and can positively impact the interviewer and tip the scales in your favour.