Guest Post By Keith Mackay
Keith Mackay is Managing Director of Resume Right , a business helping professional clients with career documents such as resumes, bios and LinkedIn profiles and providing real-world career advice and guidance. Keith is an experienced head-hunter and executive recruiter, previously MD and Partner of several major search companies.
There are a lot of mixed messages about the job market at the moment, but one thing is sure: if you are not busy applying, you are not going to get a new job! But we still see loads of highly active job hunters getting absolutely nowhere even though they are applying to everything they see. Pretty depressing for anyone, right? Nobody likes all that rejection.
If you fall into this category, don’t despair. There is an answer. By changing your approach from one of just high activity to one of smart activity, you can feel more in control and get better results.
So, if you’ve been sending your resume to every job ad that you think looks OK, with dozens of applications going all over the place or posting your resume on mega jobs boards that swallow them without a trace and you are still getting no response, these steps will show you how to stack the odds in your favour and get better results. It’s not about doing even more – it’s about doing less – but with purpose.
Step 1: Take stock. What do you have to offer now?
Perform a ruthless self-audit. List your experience, education, achievements, skills. We’re not talking about what you hope to become at this stage – but what you have achieved to date and how you can use these achievements to land your next job.
Step 2: Make a list of job ads that match your offering.
Now revisit all relevant sources of job ads – newspapers, journals, online job sites. Review the job ad requirements. Do you meet them?
Step 3. If you don’t meet the requirements, don’t apply!
If the ad asks specifically for experience or education that you do not have, cross it out and move on. Employers list requirements in ads as a means to exclude applications. Save your time, energy and emotion and just don’t apply for roles that you don’t fit. You wouldn’t have got them anyway.
Step 4. Concentrate on those job ads where you actually meet the requirements.
Make a realistic list of those job ads where you really do meet the requirements. The number of ads you will be replying to will be fewer but your chance of getting a favourable reply is already higher.
Step 5. Apply – and don’t leave any doubt about your fit for the job.
When you apply make it absolutely obvious that you match their requirements in both your resume and cover letter. A hiring manager’s first scan of an application will be under 10-20 seconds as they look for a match to the essential skills and experience they stipulated. So make it clear up front that you meet these requirements.
Step 6. Be prepared to tweak each and every application
Unless every job you’re applying for is identical in every way, the likelihood of one generic resume getting you through this first application assessment is very low. Reshape your cover letter and resume to mirror each job ad – changing the emphasis to correspond to the needs specified. A targeted, high quality application will beat a generic resume every time and increase your chances of getting an interview.
Step 7. Get organized
This is an important step. Use a spreadsheet (or some other organization tool) to create a calendar that lists all the suitable opportunities that you have identified. Include contact details, ad date, closing date, requirements, date of your application, response, date of online tests, date of interview etc.
Step 8. Stay in control and manage your activity
Use your calendar to prioritize and manage your activity. This way you know when the job ad closing dates are and when interviews are scheduled so you can prioritize and put in the necessary effort for what’s coming next. If don’t get a response to your application after a set period send a follow up email. If don’t hear for 2 weeks assume the opportunity is dead and move on.
Step 9. Keep the activity up and prioritize.
Keep sending out targeted applications and recording what you are doing. You are bound to hit hurdles and get rejections, but it doesn’t matter. Just move on to the next activity on your schedule. If you have another interview coming up, switch your attention to preparing for that. Concentrate on preparation in order of priority without panicking about recent results.
Step 10. Keep emotion out of it!
Treat the job application process as a series of steps and hurdles. If you manage it like a project and treat it unemotionally you will feel in control. When you fail, dust yourself down, review your calendar and move on to the next step.
Remember that job advertisements – what we are discussing here – are just a fraction of the job market. If you are really smart, you will work your network to discover job opportunities before they hit the market. Studies show over 60% of jobs are filled this way.