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Job Search 2014: Four Steps to Success

Job Search 2014: Four Steps to Success

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Leaving your LinkedIn profile unfinished or outdated is like posting an old resume online and asking Google to show it to employers when they do a search for you during the hiring process.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.

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Hidden Gems: How to Find a Job That Not Everyone’s Applying To

ZipRecruiter: Find Jobs in the Hidden Job Market

Often, it’s not your resume that’s hurting you. It’s not that your LinkedIn profile is preventing you from job search success. It’s not where you went to college, either.

Rather, it’s the number of other applicants going for the same openings. For instance, if you’re applying to the same positions as a 1,000 other qualified applicants, you have a 0.1% of getting that job.

As an intelligent job seeker, you should automatically recognize that when you utilize the mainstream avenues such as LinkedIn and Monster, you’re often competing with the masses.

As a result, you have less options, more rejection and lowered confidence from non-responsive hiring managers.

Diversifying Your Job Search

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Specific Advice for a Standout Resume

When it comes to your job search, a good resume isn’t good enough. Executive recruiter John Paul Engel comes to us today to share specific advice on how to craft not a good resume, but a great resume.

Write a great resume to climb the corporate ladder

What is the chief difference between a good resume and a great resume?

A good resume is well written, with no mistakes, and is formatted in a pleasing way. A great resume is all those thing but also features bullet points that give measurable accomplishments, starts out with a summary with five really attention getting bullets related to the job, and I want to see something special about the person. For example a recent candidate worked with the Navy Seals. Another won an award from the Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania. A third financed his entire education working 3 jobs while going to school full time. I want to find candidates for my clients that are determined to be successful and have reached high levels of success.

How can a job seeker know if they’ve written a great resume?

An example of an exception resume

The biggest mistake job seekers make is they don’t show their resume to people they know. Show it to everyone who will take a look and give you feedback. Everyone knows someone who works in HR or is a recruiter. Everyone has a friend or relative that is an English teacher. Get as many opinions as you can. Look for great examples.

Click to see John Paul Engel’s resume »

You deal a lot with executive-level recruitment. Are the strategies or expectations different for resumes at the executive level verses at the entry level?

I’m looking for people with clear career progression and success in their roles. They should have grown in their career with clear progression. I expect executives to be able to give me P&L related information related to their tasks. How many millions did they save? What was the growth in customer satisfaction or revenue under their watch? How many people have they managed? What is the size of the budgets they’ve managed?

What is your top tip for job seekers who have received few or no bites on their resume?

People hire people, not bits of paper or bytes. Make a list of the 5 employers you want to work for and then use LinkedIn to find the hiring managers. Offer to do an hour of volunteer work at their favorite charity for every minute of their time they give up you to 10 minutes. Offer to take them to lunch. Get involved with industry association by volunteering for any task until you can do the one most related to your career. The answer is always “No” if you don’t ask. If you ask enough people someone will accept your invitation. I followed this advice 20 years ago and it landed me a job on the research staff of the Federal Reserve Board preparing briefing materials for then Chairman Greenspan.

Is there anything else you would like to say about this topic?

Don’t approach networking as what you can get but what you can give. One of my mentors was one of the four founders of Accenture. He taught me the more you help other people the better your life and your business becomes. Focus on how you can be of service to others. The more you are of service the more opportunities open up for you. People like to help people who help them. Always be willing to give time in the service of others.

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Related: How to Write a Cover Letter for Any Job »


About the Author

John Paul Engel is an executive recruiter to high growth companies in the cable and payment industries. His advice has appeared in CNNMoney, US News, INC Entrepreneur, AOL Jobs, MSNBC, and over 150 leading publications. He is highly sought after speaker on career and business topics. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with an International distinction.

Visit John Paul at and

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How to Write a Keyword-Rich Resume When Job Details are Sparse

Resume and Cover Letter Keywords

There are few things more frustrating in your job search than sitting down to customize your resume and cover letter to a job posting, only to realize the job posting is telling you next to nothing about the role.

Customizing your resume and cover letter is redundant enough as it is, not to mention time consuming, but it must be done (if you want the job, that is). So even though the employer has made this process more difficult for you, you still need to step up to the plate and take some initiative.

So, next steps – you’ve given yourself a pep talk and mustered up the energy to find the information you need, but where do you start?

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Q&A: How to Get Noticed By Employers on Social Media

Submitting a job application isn’t always enough to get noticed by employers. In today’s career expert Q&A, Julie Bauke walks us through when, why, and how to approach employers through social media.

Contacting Employers Through Social Media

Why can it be advantageous to approach employers via social media instead of through more traditional channels?

There is not one right way to approach every employer, so you always need to be thinking about the best approach for that particular employer.

If you see that they are active as a company or as individuals on LinkedIn, then you can be comfortable that they are open to being approached that way. If, in your research, you find the hiring manager’s name and look him up on LinkedIn and he has few connections and an incomplete profile, you’d better stick to more traditional methods. If the company or the decision maker is active on Twitter, follow them for a while so you can get a good feel for style, favorite topics, etc. before you engage.

It is a good idea to have more than one strategy per employer. For example, applying online only is almost always a loser as it is easy to get lost in the hundreds of responses. In that case, as soon as you have hit “submit,” begin your search for a networking contact who works there who might be able to help you in your navigation of the process.
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