FINDING WORK IS A FULL TIME JOB!
If you are not committed to your job search, no one else will be.
Recruiters and potential employers are human. They do not have the time nor the motivation to help a job applicant who is not helping him or herself. On the other hand, a job applicant who obviously has their act together can frequently get timely advice and helpful hints from a recruiter who may not have a position that matches the applicant's skill set but sees the potential for other employers that they may not represent. Many professional recruiters participate in networks of recruiters who share resumes and subsequently share the placement fee for candidates who are successfully placed.
The most important advice that anyone can give to a job candidate is to make it easy for the prospective employer to see what you have to bring to the table.
Many job seekers start their job search with unreasonable expectations.
Do not set your salary expectations, benefit requirements, or job search time frame unreasonably high or short. Research the job market and current salaries for the geographic location you are looking in. Know what the typical benefit package is. Avoid anything that would unnecessarily limit the potential employers who might be interested in you.
For example, stating in your resume cover letter that you are seeking a position that provides a specific minimum salary, benefit package, relocation package or some other aspect of your compensation may cause an otherwise qualified potential employer to eliminate you before you have a chance to present your qualifications. If you appear to be uncompromising or troublesome, potential employers may pass over your resume regardless of your apparent suitability for the position.
The Resume: The Three S's
The sole purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. Employers almost never hire based on a resume alone: however, the resume is the first and often the only thing a potential employer sees of a job candidate before a phone or in-person interview and must be immediately engaging to the person reading the resume.
There is no set format for a resume; however, the most effective resumes follow the rule of the Three S's: Keep it Simple, Straightforward and Short.
Make it Simple to read and understand. Use an easy to read format and font. Excessive blocking, shading and the use of colors may make it appear like a graphic designer's dream but it will complicate the lives of employers and recruiters who have to work with it. The resume may be impossible to scan or enter into a resume data base without extensive revision, something that most busy HR departments and recruiters do not have time for. The use of resume databases, which rely on keyword searches and electronic retrieval, by employers and recruiters is increasingly common. With e-mail and online resumes the issue is even more important. Avoid the use of industry jargon and excessive abbreviations. The first person to read the resume, usually a recruiter or HR employee, must be able to understand the resume in order to pass it on to the hiring manager.
Keep the resume focused and Straightforward. Don't spend a lot of effort trying to exhaustively catalog your employment history and experiences. Include the details of your experience that directly or indirectly reflect on your qualifications for the position or that are necessary to explain gaps in your employment history. Don't go into a lot of detail on irrelevant experience. For example, very few employers care what jobs a college graduate had while they were in High School and College unless the jobs directly affect the qualifications or experience required for the position or are needed to explain gaps in the educational or employment record.
Keep the resume Short and to the point. One or two pages max. A ten page resume with small type face, narrow margins, and no white space will almost guarantee your resume is going to go unread and may get it into the shredder immediately. The average recruiter only spends about 30 seconds looking at a resume for the first time. Make it easy for the recruiter to get to the "good parts" about you and your qualifications.
As obvious as it may seem, many candidates do not understand that the interview is the single most important step in the hiring process. All your hard work to get to the interview stage may go down the tubes if you are not prepared for the interview.
The first step in preparing for an interview is to learn as much as you can about the prospective employer. If you have not already researched the company or are not familiar with them from prior industry experience, try to find as much about them as possible.
Read the annual report. All public companies publish one which frequently goes into great detail about the products, financials and industry in which the company competes.
Use their web site to get a feel for their products, company culture, and company structure. Some companies show their organization chart on the web site, which is a good way to learn who the key personnel are. Look at any press releases the company has posted to get up to date on recent developments. If you know anyone in the company or in the same industry, pump them for any information they may have about the company and its reputation and business practices. If you have time, research the local business news paper for stories about the company or the industry to determine trends or recent developments.
Review the company financials if they are available. All public companies have to file an annual 10K report which is available on the Securities and Exchange web site if not on the companies own web site or in the Annual Report. Public companies are also covered by financial publications and financial web sites like Quicken.com and others. Privately held companies are a little harder to research because they don't have to publish their financial results, however, information is frequently available in local newspaper articles or other public sources.
Make sure you dress properly for the interview. Even notoriously casual companies, like software developers, expect job candidates to dress up for their interview. In general, the larger the company, the more important the dress is for the interview. A dark suit with a power tie is never over dressed. Forgo any unusual or controversial clothing, jewelry or hair styles during the interview. You can shock your employer all you want after you have been hired but don't turn off a potential employer before you have a chance to show what you can do on the job.
Always get to the interview site early. Allow plenty of time for getting lost or finding parking, especially if the area is unfamiliar to you. Take the phone numbers for your point of contact in case you need last minute directions to the company offices. Get plenty of sleep the night before and don't fill up on coffee before the interview.
After the interview, be sure to send a thank you note or e-mail to the hiring manager or interviewer. You can usually get the correct contact information from the secretary or receptionist when you report for the interview or before you leave. Thank anyone who has helped you get the interview. Even if you are not the primary candidate for the job, follow up a week or so later to see if there is any interest. The first choice for the position may fall out and you want to be in position to fill in behind them if at all possible.
Negotiation: Offer and Acceptance
If you are lucky enough to get an offer from a prospective employer, make sure you don't blow your chances for the job by being too aggressive at negotiating your salary or benefit package. You should have already set your expectations as to salary based on an honest appraisal of your worth in the local job market . What you made in another part of the country may be irrelevant if it is out of line with local salaries. The size of the company and the industry it competes in will frequently drive the current salary ranges. Local and company custom as to benefits and other perks will drive those issues.
Most companies want to make a fair and reasonable offer. They want you to start out happy so you have a chance to get into the job without being distracted from the beginning. They also don't want to make their current employees unhappy if a new employee is able to negotiate a sweet deal for himself that is out of line with other salaries or benefits the company offers.
An offer is an indication that a company has decided that you are the person they want for the position but it does not necessarily mean that they are in love with you to the exclusion of all other candidates. You may be the best choice out of several excellent candidates and the employer can easily withdraw the offer if you start looking like a shylock arguing over every phrase in the offer letter.
On the other hand, if you have questions about the offer, be sure to get them clarified. Once the offer letter is signed, you have lost your negotiating strength and will not be in much of a position to demand anything different for some time after you start your employment. Keep the lines of communication open.
Your response to the offer should be prompt and complete. Address all areas in the offer letter that you have questions about or wish to negotiate at the same time. Don't nickel and dime the employer. They may be willing to make a concession on one point but will get tired of the game very quickly if you come back with a new demand every time they resolve an issue.
If you cannot immediately accept an offer, say because you are expecting another offer from another employer, be honest and tell them. Ask for an extension if you need one. If the prospective employer wants you bad enough, they may sweeten the offer before the other company has a chance to "steal" you from them. In any case, it is not a good practice to keep the employer waiting for your decision. Their offer can be withdrawn at any time if you manage to upset them enough.
Good Luck in Your Job Search!