Whether you’ve been looking for a job for a few months or have just put “Get a new job in 2014” at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions, now is a great time to take a second look at your job search strategy. A few adjustments here and there may make all the difference in today’s improving – but still super-competitive – job market.
1. Update and Optimize Your Resume
No doubt you’ve heard this piece of advice before, but it’s worth reinforcing: your resume is the cornerstone of your job search. Make sure it’s free of grammar and spelling errors, is accurate, and maybe most importantly, that it gives a sense of who you are as an employee, and what value you will bring to your new company. Give specific examples of notable achievements at previous jobs, making sure to include any accomplishments that will give you an edge over other candidates. Also be aware that many companies use software to screen for relevant keywords in incoming resumes. That doesn’t mean you should try to game the system by loading your resume with keywords and jargon, but you should make sure that you’re using up-to-date terminology to describe your work experience.
2. Polish Up Your LinkedIn Profile
Leaving your LinkedIn profile unfinished or outdated is like posting an old resume online and asking Google to show it to employers when they do a search for you during the hiring process. Since your profile is often one of the first search results that employers will see, make sure that you take the same care with your LinkedIn profile as you do your resume. Include a professional-looking photo, fill out the summary section, and double-check everything for accuracy. Also take advantage of those areas where LinkedIn is better than a resume by asking for recommendations from co-workers, creating a portfolio of previous work and, of course, networking.
3. Personalize Your Cover Letter
It’s okay to start with a boilerplate cover letter and work from there, but be sure to personalize each outgoing letter by tailoring it towards the company you’re applying to. Explain why you believe you are right for the job, including relevant experience and skills. Be as specific as possible to make it clear to the reader that you’ve taken the time to research the company and the position, and are not just blasting out hundreds of generic cover letters in hopes of landing an interview. Also, although cover letters may be listed as “optional” on many online job sites, never pass up the opportunity to show yourself in the best light with a well-crafted cover letter. You can be sure other applicants aren’t.
4. Streamline Your Online Job Search
It’s often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. Waking up every morning and wading through ten or twenty different job sites looking for relevant job openings (and then applying using almost as many different logins and passwords) can end up becoming a huge time suck. One way to help manage your job search work flow is to use the “Apply With” buttons from LinkedIn, Indeed, or Monster, which means you only have to remember one login. Another way is to sign up for a free job alert email service which will deliver job listings directly to your inbox, freeing you up to concentrate on the important – and time-consuming – business of actually applying for jobs.