Article originally published in The Wall Street Journal by Anthony DeRosa January 14, 2021 https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-get-a-job-11605911616?mod=djemdivbiz
- Tailor your résumé and cover letter to land an interview.
- Learn as much as you can about the employer and role.
- Demonstrate your soft skills.
Landing the job you want, especially in a competitive field, goes beyond having the right skills and experience. How you communicate, how organized and prompt you are, and how you present yourself will determine whether you are selected over other candidates. Arming yourself with knowledge about the company and role will demonstrate that you have done your research. Preparing for a range of questions shows you can think on your feet. The following steps will help prepare you to land the job you want.
To land a job, nail down the basics.
Your cover letter and résumé, which concisely explain your experience and skills, are the basic but essential building blocks of landing the job. Some employers use automated systems to scan résumés to see if you are a match. Most résumés need to first get past that automated system for you to be considered in the first place. If you can’t get past that, you may never have the opportunity to show you are right for the job. Make sure your résumé is in the most simple format possible. You might need multiple versions of your résumé that are tailored for the specific jobs you are applying for. You’re going to need to write cover letters that have a personal touch for each role.
- Keep it simple. Stick to the most standard formatting possible with your résumé.
- Use keywords. The more frequently certain keywords appear in a job description, the more important they likely are. Make sure those words are included in your résumé.
- Tailor your cover letter. Your cover letter should be specific to the company and job you are applying to.
Expand your professional network to help you discover job opportunities.
Once you are armed with a solid résumé, explore several different avenues to find the job you want. Online job boards are the most common path, but they are only the beginning. Don’t limit your search there. Networking with people in your industry, seeking out job placement agencies and recruiters, and joining professional organizations can improve your odds of not only finding a job, but finding the role that is best-suited to you. “Network with purpose and have a plan, an end goal and time frame,” says Marjorie Miller, a partner at executive search firm MitchelLake Group. “Something that helps you keep on track and keeps you to a schedule, so your search isn’t so open-ended.”
- Networking can be your most powerful tool. Seek out contacts in your target industry.
- Professional organizations can open doors when you don’t yet have an inside track.
- Agencies and recruiters can be your job advocates, helping you focus your efforts elsewhere.
Consider remote work.
Many employers are allowing staff to telecommute and work from anywhere, which wasn’t always the case. This could give you the chance to work for companies that might normally have required you to uproot your life and relocate. “Since workers are no longer constrained to work for companies in their own cities and towns, they can consider every company across the globe as a potential employer,” says John H. Chuang, chief executive of Aquent, a staffing company for the marketing and creative industries. “This increases their earning power and also enables companies to compete for and retain the best talent available worldwide.”
Consider how your professional image comes across online.
Do your research
Read up on the company you want to work for. When you attend an interview, you should be able to communicate how you can be a valuable asset to the company. You should be able to articulate why you want to work for this employer, why this particular role is appealing to you and what makes you the right person for this position. Prepare yourself with answers to the most common interview questions. Think of ways to personalize your answer to show how your unique experiences or skills qualify you for the job. Share a story of a success you had or a challenge you overcame. Preparation helps you to come across as someone who is comfortable, confident and can think on their feet.
Your soft skills—such as how you communicate, your ability to work well and collaborate with others, and adaptability to change—are highly coveted by employers. The way you answer behavior-based questions can help determine how strong those skills may be.
The little things mean a lot: Showing up early to an interview; bringing extra copies of your résumé; dressing appropriately; thinking about your posture: these can help to demonstrate your soft skills, such as reliability, organization and professionalism. You want to appear confident, and being prepared goes a long way toward putting yourself in that mindset.
Get outside help: One way you could refine these things would be to get a career coach, if it is within your means. “It’s a great exercise to help you refine and define your brand,” says Ms. Miller.
Follow up and be gracious.
After your interview, make sure you follow up to thank each of the people you met for their time and consideration. You should mention something specific from your conversation to show you paid close attention. Explain briefly why you think you would be a good fit and tell the interviewer you look forward to continuing the conversation.
Make sure the culture is right for you.
The ideal job should allow your best qualities, passion and skills to shine. Don’t try to fit into a role that you will be unhappy getting up every day to do. You only get so many opportunities to make a new start, so make this one count. Get to know the employer’s culture. If you have been thoughtful about the companies and positions you are applying for, your best self will shine through. Remember that the employer isn’t just hiring you—you are also choosing who to offer your talents to and spend your time working with.