Job searches can be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time, are entering a competitive field, or don’t have much on-the-job experience. Thanks to modern technology, most applications are completed in just a few clicks, but that convenience can also mean getting lost in a stack of other equally-qualified applicants. Here are a few simple tips and resources to help you stand out and make your next job search as painless as possible.
Update your resume
If you haven’t updated your resume since your previous job search, it’s time to give the document an overhaul. Before you touch your resume, however, you should examine the description of the position to which you’re applying. Highlight important words under “skills” and “responsibilities” sections, and make sure to include those words in your resume and cover letter. Most online applications are screened by an applicant tracking system before they reach the desk of HR personnel. Weave those keywords into your document, and use active verbs to describe not just what you did in a given position, but how you found success in that position. This will help you get past the initial screening process and, with any luck, score you an interview.
Go beyond online applications
In order to stand out from other potential candidates, it’s best to directly contact one of the company’s recruiters. It can also be helpful to reach out to current employees at that company who work in similar or identical positions. This way, you can get a better look at the culture of the company, as well as the realities of the job. If you make a good impression, you may even get an employee referral, which can quickly move your resume to the top of the stack. Another key is knowing how to network and build contacts. Many recruiters are now using LinkedIn to search for potential candidates. If you don’t have a profile or don’t update it frequently enough, you may be passed over in favor of someone with a more fleshed-out page.
Prepare for the interview, and keep following up
It’s easy to mince words when you’re on the spot, especially when you’re trapped in a high-stress interview environment. Luckily, most interviews feature common questions, so a little preparation goes a long way. Come up with responses to most-asked questions, such as “Can you describe a time you experienced hardship?” and “What were your favorite and least-favorite parts of your previous job?” To prepare your delivery, practice the interview with a friend or colleague. As you answer questions in your mock and actual interviews, try to use stories and specific examples rather than generic information. Once you complete your official interview, it’s a good idea to send each interviewer a brief thank-you email, and continue to follow up to show your interest in the job.