Seven Steps Every Savvy Job Hunter Takes

You've had it! You're leaving—just as soon as you get a better job. You've cleared the decks mentally and personally and you're ready to telephone contacts to let them know you're looking. Your resume is only two years old; with a few new results statements it should work fine. You're ready—or are you? Here are things to do now that will speed your search.

1. Hit the library and the Web.

Don't even consider launching a job hunt without the following information:
Rank order of largest, fastest growing, most profitable companies from large to small in your area, including startups.
Up-to-date information on businesses with sudden, intense troubles.
Key salary and inflation statistics, especially if you haven't had a raise in 18 months or more.
Annual reports for any businesses you're interested in or other available information if they're privately held.
Job opportunities in your area that are listed on the Web.

2. Debrief successful job hunters you know.

This is so easy to do, so useful, but so seldom done. Why speculate on how your resume will be received? Talk to people who've just been through the process. You'll hear about interview questions you may not have anticipated and you can prepare answers. Interview questions and resume fads run in cycles; information from the trenches will make you feel more confident.

By talking to others, you'll also get the latest on your hot targets. One student told us that he was anxious to interview with a newly formed company in his area until he talked to two job hunters who had. Their tales of interviews with the general manager would have provided the plot for a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

3. Revise your resume to include key words.

All that talk about resume scanners is true. Your resume may not be seen by a human being until it's been scanned into a computer that searches for key words. Make your resume scannable. Don't ignore this step because you think your target organizations are too small to have scanners. Technology is the great leveler—scanners now cost less than $400.00.

Job hunters have begun to string key words together in a paragraph at the end of their resumes so every word that applies will be found. Don't do that. Work key words into the body of your resume. Some resumes are scanned first by people who won't understand why there is a paragraph of seemingly unrelated words at the bottom.

Pass your resume to a dozen people in your industry to make sure you haven't missed anything. Making sure your resume is on target is worth the risk of having your boss find out you're looking. You can always say you don't know how someone got a copy. That could be true. Resumes are frequently passed from hand to hand.

4. Decide on a pace and stick to it.

We know job hunters whose searches are everlasting because they won't work at a steady, manageable pace. Thirty calls a day to contacts plus call backs is impossible for someone who's employed. What is reasonable? How about 30 calls per week plus call backs? Or 20? It doesn't matter. Keeping the momentum is what's important. A good job may turn up in the first week. If it doesn't, pace then becomes the key. A job hunter who makes 20 calls plus call backs a week will have offers within 12 weeks. One who makes 30 calls every other week won't have any offers in 12 weeks. How do we know? From analyzing job hunting logs and seeing the ebb and flow of effort and the effect on the time line.

5. Look for new targets every week.

Job hunters get so busy pursuing contacts in target companies they forget to add new targets regularly. Nothing is more depressing than running out of targets. That's when people begin to believe there are no jobs for them in the area and they are suddenly forced back into the library for more research. It's better to have too many target than too few. We've known job hunters who've passed up targets because they thought they were too busy to research them. Ruinous!

6. Follow directions scrupulously.

Recruiters are asking for resumes to be mailed flat but they're not getting resumes that have been mailed flat. They throw away those which have been folded into a #10 envelope. Why wouldn't a serious job hunter do whatever the recruiter asked? Many tell us that it "didn't seem necessary."

These people will be unemployed longer than necessary. These are the same job hunters who are told to send a two-page resume with no cover letter and send a three-page resume with a cover letter. Someone once told them "Never send resume without a cover letter." What they didn't hear was, "unless you're specifically told not to send a cover letter." Ability—and willingness—to follow instructions is a basic required skill.

7. Be a pest or court failure.

A job hunter who gives up after three unsuccessful calls to someone who is busy will have a lengthy job hunt. Everybody worth talking to is busy. You may offend Mr./Ms. Big by your insistent pursuit but you may get a job lead while he/she is telling you what a pest you are. To err on the side of not being a bother is to be jobless longer. When you send a note to thank the exasperated one and announce your wonderful new job, he/she will forget you were a pest and remember only you were successful.