Job search – Rules of engagement
In a previous blog, I addressed why throwing resumes at job postings is an ineffective job search strategy. Now that you have an overview of the job search process, it’s time to get better acquainted with the subtleties that can end up turning into colossal time wasters.
Job search is really a game. So before you begin, it’s critical to understand the rules. It’s absolutely essential to be aware of what employers really want and how you will be judged in this game. The following terms of engagement will help you to save considerable energy and effectively navigate your way in a flooded candidate pool.
Job search is really a game.
It’s critical to understand the rules.
Qualified – You have at least 95% of the required skills indicated in the job description and can demonstrate relevant examples of your work. This means you have used the tools named and you have performed the job functions. It is highly unlikely that a company will say “sure, we’ll train you on that”, when a tool or technique is critical to the performance of the work. The exception could be if you are being hired as an intern, and then a company may expect to train you. But even new graduates and interns cannot assume they will be trained. More and more companies are presuming graduates will have already learned specific skills in school and expect them to be able to provide examples of how they have used them.
Competitive – You have the required skills, you have the “desired skills”, your experience is current and you have worked in the same, or similar or related industry. Shooting for something outside of your experience in a highly competitive market is a tough wall to climb. Just because you are ABLE to do the job, doesn’t mean you’ll be competitive when there are another 200 candidates who have already DONE the job exactly as described. In an employer’s market (few jobs and lots of candidates), you can consider “desired skills” to be viewed as “required”. Why? Because you can pretty much count on someone with those skills applying for the same job and the bar will get raised. In a great job market (lots of jobs, few candidates), this dynamic will flip back again. Regardless of the state of the market, it’s important to make sure your references are ready and responsive. Make sure they can and will gladly speak to your performance.
Industry aware – You already know, or you have done enough research to use the right vocabulary. You are able to provide examples of relevant experience, and/or you can easily translate your accomplishments into relevant examples for the industry/work you are pursuing. Do not assume that because you believe you can do the job, that the employer will or that they will automatically understand why or how you could. You have to make it clear and relatable. If you describe an accomplishment that is not specific to their industry, then you will need to walk them through how it is very similar to something that occurs in their environment.
Marketable – Your resume is tailored to EACH position you apply for. It contains quantifiable results as examples of your work. It includes context that would easily show the reader you are familiar with working in the same “size” role (budget dollars, number of people supervised, number/size of accounts managed. E.g., working for a 10-person company is decidedly different than working for a 2,000 or 20,000 person company. The titles may LOOK the same, but the context of the work is typically very different. In some cases, a lofty title in a small company may reflect the responsibility level of a mid-level manager in a very large company. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If necessary, edit the lofty title to match the role that best fits your skills and experience.
Overshooting a role and being told “you’re overqualified” may feed your ego, but walking away empty handed won’t really do much for your financial picture. I am not suggesting that you grovel. Evaluate the fit of the role, vs. the title, and develop a case for why you are the “best fit”. You can’t turn down an offer you don’t get. Your enthusiasm about the company and your awareness of what is needed can win over any objections about being “over qualified”.
Plan to win – Overall, there is no magic pill. Arming yourself with information and being prepared are powerful tools. Your job search is a job and the process shouldn’t be taken lightly. Treat it like a full time job and go at it to win. You need to schedule your activities and plan ahead, just like a professional athlete who dedicates time to train every day. Make sure your household begins to wean themselves away from you being the fix-all for everything. When you do go back to work full time, you won’t be in a position to drop everything to cater to everyone.
If finances are an issue, you may not have time for the market to bounce back in your favor. Your job search may prompt you to pursue something different than what you had imagined. Be willing to pursue jobs that eventually will lead you to where you want to be, vs. only the end-all jobs you think you must have RIGHT NOW. Be realistic, flexible and most of all, patient.
For more great advice from Sherri on this topic, check out the Tricks for Tailoring Resumes and Writing Effective Cover Letters Workshop.