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Six Tips for Landing a Job

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If you're currently job-hunting, we have good news!

Now that the economy has finally recovered from the job-killing recession, “it’s a candidates market,” says professional account recruiting manager, Mackenzie Szawlowski of Aerotek. And it’s finally starting to feel like it.

That’s not to say that finding a job in 2015 will be easy. Whether you’re making a career change after a decade at the same company, or you’re a mover and shaker who changes jobs every couple of years, a successful job search takes work, smarts and determination.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of can’t-skip steps to land a job in 2015 and beyond.

1. Master the art of the digital application

While applying for jobs online is fast and efficient, it takes more than a keystroke to get the attention of a hiring manager. Nowadays, most large and mid-size companies use applicant-tracking systems (ATS) to sort through the hundreds of resumes submitted for each and every position.

"Today's tracking systems are programmed to scan for keywords, former employers, years of experience and schools attended to identify candidates of likely interest. Then, they rank the applicants. Those with low scores generally don't make it to the next round,” says Lauren Weber in the Wall St. Journal.

ADVICE: Be sure to include relevant keywords and use language from the job description to have the best shot at being selected by the ATS.

2. Rethink your resume

In today’s job market, it’s not sufficient to use the same generic résumé for every employment application. You will need several versions, depending upon the position for which you’re applying. Take care that the résumé you send shows you have the skills and qualifications required and doesn’t merely list previous job tasks. Instead, show prospective employers how you can “solve their problems,” suggests Randi Lewis, Esq., founder of Resume Boutique. Emphasize results and achievements that illustrate how your work has positively impacted previous employers. To “make it to the top of the pile,” she adds, “your résumé must look clean, organized and error-free.”

ADVICE: Have several people you respect proofread your résumé before sending it out. Also, create a plain text version of your résumé using MS Word’s Save As .txt file option—or simply use this free conversion tool.

3. Have a compelling cover letter

Write a cover letter that makes recruiters and hiring managers sit up and take notice. How? Become what business leaders call a “pain spotter,” by researching companies and discovering what “ailments” (organizational problems) they are trying to “treat” by hiring candidates like you. Then address those “ailments” in your cover letter, by showing hiring managers how you have helped to cure similar ailments in previous jobs.

ADVICE: Do your homework and compose a cover letter that packs some punch.

4. Social media matters

Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are crucial elements of a modern job search. According to JP Medved of Capterra, as of 2014, “94 percent of recruiters said they use or plan to use social media to recruit candidates.”

It’s critically important that your social media profiles are 100 percent complete and regularly updated. Align your LinkedIn profile closely with your résumé, choose appropriate keywords for headlines, job titles and summary, and include an attractive, professional photo. Then start reaching out and adding connections. Follow companies where you’d like to work, join industry groups and post articles of interest to others in your field.

In addition to using social media sites for recruiting, most hiring managers now consult social networking sites to get the real scoop on candidates before interviewing or hiring them. Make sure your social media sites reflect well on you, personally and professionally by reviewing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts to confirm they give prospective employers a positive impression. If you find incriminating photos or posts, do what you can to delete them.

And though it may seem safer to avoid social media entirely, that’s not a good strategy. In today’s world, most people use social networking sites. Having no Internet footprint may signal employers that you aren’t up on the latest technologies.

ADVICE: Optimize your LinkedIn profile by familiarizing yourself with and keeping up-to-date with the ever-changing opportunities for networking it offers. Also, police your social media presence to ensure there isn’t incriminating pictures, posts or content that would reflect poorly on you.

5. Become a great storyteller

You know the old saying … everybody’s got a story? You do too. Get comfortable telling stories about the amazing (and true) things you’ve accomplished throughout your career. Just as the best writers use details that make it easy to imagine what they are writing about, provide prospective employers with specifics about the contributions you’ve made and the awards or honors you have garnered for yourself or former employers.

ADVICE: Illustrate how you can help prospective employers with vivid explanations of how you have stepped up to the plate for former employers throughout the course of your career.

6. Build a referral network

Like it or not, personal connections can make the difference between getting an interview and getting nowhere. But don’t despair. You probably know many more people than you realize.

“Make a chart listing your friends, relatives and people you’ve dealt with in business,” suggests Lewis. “Determine who you trust to keep your job search confidential, to give you honest advice, and to make appropriate introductions … Call or email each person noting the date of contact, content of conversation and scheduling a date for follow up … Follow up on every lead … and go on every informational or courtesy interview, … ” she adds.

ADVICE: Cast a wide net. You are likely to be surprised by how many people are willing to speak up on your behalf, introducing you to choice opportunities which may not have even registered on your radar. Remember that your rate of success likely hinges on how many people you contact. Choose a target number of people to contact each day and hit your mark.

7. Hit the streets

As powerful a job-seeking resource as the Internet is, some aspects of a modern job search demand pushing your chair away from the computer, changing out of your PJs and leaving the house. Attend a live networking event, take a work-related course and have lunch with friends and colleagues. It can’t hurt the state of your job search and will do wonders for your state of mind.

“Make a chart listing your friends, relatives and people you’ve dealt with in business,” suggests Lewis. “Determine who you trust to keep your job search confidential, to give you honest advice, and to make appropriate introductions … Call or email each person noting the date of contact, content of conversation and scheduling a date for follow up … Follow up on every lead … and go on every informational or courtesy interview, … ” she adds.

ADVICE: In our digital era, it’s often easy to forget that nothing completely replaces a firm handshake and a lively conversation. Networking events are terrific opportunities to leave a valuable lasting impression.