Do You Apply Your Job Searching Energy Effectively?

Published in CareersConnect, May 2010

By April Silverthorn Southward

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 15.3 million people who are currently unemployed. This does not take into account the millions of employed workers who are chomping at the bit to make a career move while clinging to the security of their current position. Needless to say, employers definitely have the upper hand in today's hiring process. With hundreds of résumés coming in for each and every position out there, you have to do your best to stand out from the crowd. This is something easier said than done, but with an honest evaluation of your job search, you can put yourself ahead in the hiring race without exhausting yourself in the process.

I know what you're thinking, "I've read several articles on this before, and I've already implemented everything that I can when it comes to my job search." Stop right there! With an attitude like that, you are sure to have trouble finding your next position. Just take a few minutes to read this article and evaluate your current job search strategy to ensure that you are actually putting your best foot forward.

To begin evaluating your job search, start by completely reading over the job postings you are applying for. Why is this important? Well, despite what you might have been told, the application process is really a big test. Do you remember in grade school when your teacher would tell you to completely read the directions before starting an exam? You'd quickly raced to get finished, disregarding the teacher's directions, only to realize that the directions stated that you didn't have to take the exam. Rather than being tested on the material, you were being tested on your ability to follow directions. That is a prime example of what a job listing does with its applicants.

So, before getting caught up in how perfect the job sounds or tailoring your résumé and cover letter for the position, stop yourself and read over the posting completely. Then, make sure that you are following all of the directions laid out in the posting. If they are asking for you to apply through their website rather than through the job board, be sure to do so. Or, if they ask you to submit a copy of your degree and your list of references, make sure that you do this just as requested.

Many times applicants do not follow the simple directions that the employer has laid out and, as a result, end up disqualifying themselves. Don't fool yourself into thinking that because you are overly qualified these rules do not apply to you. When I worked as a recruiter for a marketing firm in Nashville, Tennessee, I was specifically instructed to toss out all applications that were not completed exactly as they were requested. That is exactly what I did, even when the applicant was qualified and would be a good fit. To be honest, I never felt badly about this because from a recruiting perspective, you did not apply properly, and therefore are not qualified since you cannot follow directions. Needless to say, by following an employer's directions "to a T" you will have the upper hand in making your application stand out from the rest of the stack sitting on his or her desk.

To take this a step further, when it comes to online job boards, you need to spend time creating a complete job seeker profile. When I look through the CM Jobs site, about one-third of profiles are not completely filled out. If an employer is to take a look at your profile and see that it is incomplete, they might think that this is the kind of work that you produce. This creates the illusion that you complete some things thoroughly while leaving other things incomplete. When an employer is trying to narrow down their list of applicants to call, this is one of many things they will review as they look for more information to assist them in their decision.  I know that completing a profile can be time consuming, but when you have found a great job opening that you are excited about applying for, stop and catch yourself, because you want to have the best chance of being interviewed and selected. So, take the couple of minutes required to complete your profile and give potential employers the best first impression that you possibly can.

The second thing you will want to consider is if you are preparing your application properly. By this I mean that you are, for one, always providing a cover letter, even when you are not requested to do so. Don't ever think that a cover letter is not required when applying for a professional position, because they are always required when you are applying, especially if you want your application to be reviewed. Plus, a cover letter is your chance to tell the employer something about yourself that is not listed in your résumé while making your very first impression. Be sure to edit your entire application with a fine-toothed comb before sending it for review. For more information on this, see my last article, "Have You Focused on the Details of Your Job Search?"

The next thing you will want to consider when it comes to your application is the content of your application. Many of you, I'm sure, have great résumé content. However, in today's job market, you practically have to be over-qualified in order to be given the opportunity to interview. What else can you do to make your application stand out? Start by considering the education, training, and membership sections of your résumé. Are each of these filled out? Have you provided all of the information for your recent training? Have you listed your professional certification(s) and your professional association memberships? If not, you should consider reworking your résumé to list this information, as it shows employers that you are interested and motivated when it comes to developing yourself professionally. How do you list this information on your résumé? Check out our "Résumé Building: How to Include NCMA's Programs on Your Résumé" article, which has been posted on the CM Jobs site to assist job seekers who are working on their résumés.

Don't have anything to list? Look around to see what educational and training opportunities are available to you, and then sign up for something that fits the qualifications of what you are looking for. NCMA offers a wealth of educational training and certifications for a relatively low cost that you may want to look into; you can check out these opportunities here. Listing even one of these items on your résumé can significantly improve your chances of being selected as a potential candidate.

All things considered, it's really not that difficult to stop and take the time to ensure that you are using your job search energy effectively. These steps are small and can easily be incorporated into your current job search strategy with only a few minutes of your time. So, work through this list and implement what you are not already doing to find your next position even sooner than you thought possible!

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