Job search is a marathon, not a sprint.
Accept that, adjust your expectations, and keep things in perspective.
If you’re not familiar with the hiring process, here’s a crash-course: Depending on the industry, it can take an average 23 days for recruiters to get to the interviewing phase.
That means…for some, it can be as many as 55 days, and for others as few as ten.
“The process” is out of your control, but there a few things you can do to at least get into the interview phase.
1. Send in phenomenal resumes and cover letters
Because you simply can’t go to the job marketplace with an unremarkable image.
If anywhere on your resume or cover letter you’ve said something like…”Five years of healthcare experience”, you’ve invoked a “who cares” response.
Similarly, listing your perceived skills and previous job duties typically evokes little more than a yawn.
All of your competitors will list the same skills and job duties. You’ll just be another job applicant with zero remarkability, indistinguishable from the rest of the job-seeking zombies.
Before you sit down to write your resume, identify the solution the employer is looking for.
If you’re using online job boards to job search (as opposed to the more effective networking approach), use them strategically.
Dissect online job postings. Go deep to discover what the employer is looking for.
Read every single word, not just the job requirements, then go back and read between the lines.
It’s not so much the actual tasks you want to “speak to” in your resume – it’s what it takes to do those tasks.
When an employer lists “Requirements” in the job ad, he or she is telling you…“this is what I need you to do.”
They want you to, first, show you understand what they’re looking for, and second, prove to them you have what it takes to give it to them.
When you talk to that employer in your resume, you won’t say, “I can do that”, or “I’ve done that.”
You’ll say…”Here’s how I’ve done that previously, here’s the impact it had, and here’s the outcome it produced.”
Here’s an example of how that works:
Requirements from a job ad:
Provides assistance with:
• Dressing and undressing
• Bathing/Personal Hygiene (shaving, dental hygiene, nail care, foot care)
• Assist with dining, recreation, and exercise
Here’s how most people’s resumes respond:
• Assisted residents with day-to-day hygiene, including washing and grooming
• Helped residents with daily living by assisting at mealtimes
• Brought residents to game room and helped with daily exercising
Here’s how your resume should respond:
- provided residents an enjoyable meal experience by interacting attentively to assure dietary and emotional needs were met, hand-feeding with patience and empathy to preserve dignity
- stimulated physical and emotional well-being of residents by engaging in exercise and recreational activities, providing individualized care to ensure each residents’ comfort was observed and maintained
- followed safety procedures carefully during bathing, shaving, nail and foot care, remaining attentive to prevent discomfort; attended to bed time needs to promote relaxation and longer periods of rest
Each of these bulleted descriptions tells the employer what you did, how you did it, and what the outcome was.
Now doesn’t that paint a vivid picture of your accomplishments?
Certainly far more effectively than listing a roll of job duties.
Did you know two of the most powerful words in a resume are “to” and “by”?
Why is that?
It’s because “to” tells the employer you did a thing to produce a result.
“By” tells him the skills you used to do the thing that produced the result.
Tell the employer you know what he’s looking for, describe how you’ll give it to him, and prove it with proof.
2. Get past the gatekeepers
Recruiters and HR personnel are very busy people.
They’re buried under heaps of resumes they have to read every day. It’s their job and it’s not fun.
For some, watching the clock is preferable to trying to digest terrible resumes all the live-long day.
Whether distracted or fully engaged, some recruiters and most HR personnel can’t interpret your resume the way a hiring manager can.
Most hiring managers are directly involved in the jobs they advertise. It might be a department head or a supervisor, it might be a foreman or a team-lead.
While developing job ads is usually a collaborative effort, it’s the hiring manager who makes sure the ad is descriptive and thorough, and will solicit the stellar resumes he’s looking for.
The hiring manager is the person you want to get your resume in front of – directly.
He or she is the person with the hiring challenge niggling at the back of their mind.
He or she is the person who knows precisely what they’re looking for in a new employee, and is anxious about making the right choice.
It’s the guy or gal squirming in their boots you want to get your resume in front of.
He or she is the person feeling the urgency to get that position filled with the right person, and he or she is the person who can make that determination about you.
Make a phone call to find out who that person is. Get his or her name, then look them up on LinkedIn and on the company’s website.
Personalize your cover letter, ideally for the hiring manager, and most certainly for the company.
Get the hiring manager’s email address and send your resume and cover letter to that person.
Attach your resume but write your cover letter directly in the body of the email.
Open with an attention-grabber, keep the rest of it brief, relevant, and compelling.
Lastly, in the Subject line, be very clear, and name your file attachment clearly as well.
Make it easy for the hiring manager to read your email and open your resume.
Subject line: Jane Smith, 5-Year Experienced Healthcare Aide, Resume Attached
File Name: Experienced Healthcare Aide Jane Smith
3. Get off the job search hamster wheel
Responding to job ads is the least effective job search tact there is.
Networking is #1, targeting is #2, and waterboarding job boards is…well, stupid.
You’ll shorten your job search time considerably when you use a combination of 1 and 2 primarily, with maybe a peek at job boards occasionally.
If you’re worried you might miss out on a great job opportunity, set up your job-board accounts to alert you for jobs in your field or industry. Then forget it.
You don’t need to be trolling job boards every day. You’ll get email notifications when new opportunities become available.
In the meantime, get networking.
How you network is up to you. You’re approach has to be comfortable for you – doable, so it’s a strategy you know you can stick with.
If you’re not comfortable with conventional or formal networking, go more casual.
Strike up conversations with the people you already engage with, like friends, family, neighbors, your hair stylist, your mechanic, your kids’ teachers or sports coaches…essentially anyone you engage with face-to-face, no matter how infrequently.
You never know when you might hear about a position opening up at someone’s company, or his wife’s company, or his Dad’s company.
When you network, it’s like getting others to job search on your behalf.
When they hear of something you might be good for, people will remember you. As long as you’re not that “I’ll take anything” guy. No ones gonna remember that.
Be specific about what you do and what you’re looking for, and carry business cards. Hand them out like candy.
Then there’s #2: targeting.
Go after the employers you really want to work for.
You don’t have to sit around waiting for a company to post a job opportunity you’d be good for.
Grab the bull by the horns and go to them.
There’s no harm in sending a hiring manager an unsolicited resume, as long as it’s a damned good resume.
Generic is not a damned good resume.
Even if you’re targeting ten different employers, you can’t let them know that.
Customize each resume as best you can to hit most of the requirements an actively-searching employer would look for in candidates.
If you don’t know what those requirements are, you have no business wasting anyone’s time.
Be sure to express in the body of the email why it’s worth the hiring manager’s time to look over your resume.
Remember, he hasn’t asked you (or anyone) to send him a resume, so let him know you actually have something of value to offer him.
(Do not write, “I think I’d be a valuable asset to your company”. If you can’t explain why you are a valuable asset, don’t even bother.)
And finally, you never know when a hiring manager might pass your resume on to another hiring manager.
He, himself, may not be actively looking, but he may know of someone who is or soon will be. This is networking at it’s finest, and it’s another reason your unsolicited resumes have to be phenomenal.
No one’s going to forward on a crappy generic resume.
Shorten your job search time and boost your interview chances by:
- Writing phenomenal resumes and cover letters
- Consciously and deliberately networking
- Approaching companies you want to work at
What are your job search challenges?
Let me know in the comments…I’ll help you out.
Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job-search coach. During 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!