Job Hunting

Often times you come across new job opportunities while you’re gainfully employed and without even looking for them.  But what if you find yourself in a situation where you need to proactively look for a new job?  How do you go about it and what are some of the tricks of the trade?  I published a blog series on this topic and hope it’s helpful to your endeavor.

Here’s the make up of this blog post series:

Also read my related blog post series on Resume Writing and Interviewing.

For Military Veterans

For military veterans newly transitioning into the private sector, I highly recommend this blog post by Craig Cummings titled “A Military Veteran Transitioning to the Private Sector Needs to Act Like a Startup


Job Hunting Tip #5 – Getting Aggressive with Unsolicited Outreaches

If a target company has a job posting that is a fit, then obviously you should follow the stated process for submitting your resume and then try to reach someone personally in the HR department, or better yet use your personal network to get to the hiring manager.  But if this isn’t the case, and you can’t seem to get any friendly introductions, what should you do?  Well, once choice is to keep waiting to see if something shakes loose.  But if you reach a point where you need to get more aggressive, then it’s time to take matters into your own hands.

My recommendation in this case is to reach out to some appropriate person in the company on your own.  It is important to reach out to the right personal at the right level.  In other words, if you are seeking a sales rep position in a 2,000 employee company, you should not reach out to the CEO but rather the Sales VP or maybe a regional Sales Director.  You’re going to get the names of these people from LinkedIn, the company website or your personal network.

The best method of doing this is email.  Even if you don’t know the email address of the person you want to reach out to, it’s not hard to figure out.  Check the website Contact page and the bottom of any company-produced press releases to see if any person’s email address is listed.  For example, if the target company is Ipswitch Incorporated and you see a press contact (John Doe) listed as, then you can pretty well predict the company’s email nomenclature.  If you can’t find any such clues, then with about 90% odds of success, you should try the following three approaches:

Continue reading “Job Hunting Tip #5 – Getting Aggressive with Unsolicited Outreaches”

Job Hunting Tip #4 – Build Your Research Files

Once you have your first and second lists of target companies and their related industries, it’s time to gather even more information.  Not only will this help you confirm your assessment, but it will better prepare you for your approach to the company and also a possible interview.

There are several ways to conduct your additional research:

  • Friends and colleagues – Start reaching out to them and letting them know which industries you are targeting and which companies you’re initially interested in.  Ask them what they know about any of the companies and find out if they have any contacts that could prove to be valuable.  Lunches and happy hours with your colleague and their contact can provide invaluable inside information.  If you are seeking an executive-level position, you’ll want to expand this exercise to include background checks on the CEO and the investors.
  • Internet Networking Tools – Probably the best example is LinkedIn.  If you are already a member, then you have big leg up.  LinkedIn has a function that allows you to search on a company name to see which direct members of your own LinkedIn network also have people from the target company in their network.  Secondly, does the target company use social media tools like Twitter or Facebook?  If so, it’s time to become a follower, subscriber, friend, etc.
  • E-mail Alerts  – Google, Yahoo and others have a function that allows you to enter keywords to get automated email alerts any time a press release or trade article is published with those keywords in the context.  Many of these will be company-issued press releases, which you can also get from the company’s website but would need to check regularly to see if something new was produced.  But even more valuable are analyst reports or trade articles about the company.  For future reference, make a file for all of this information or at least capture the important information in a document with web links to the get to the full content.
  • Blogs and Message Boards – Find out if they exist for the industry or even the company (ideal).  Read through them, printing out postings of interest.
  • Analyst Research Reports – If you don’t happen to have login credentials with analyst firms like the Gartner Group, Yankee, Forrester Research or The 451 Group, seek out friends or relatives that might.  Typically you can search these sites for industry or company-related reports and even see the abstract for the report.  This will give you a wish list to pass on to your friend or relative.
  • SEC  Reports – This is really just for publicly traded companies.  Search the SEC’s EDGAR site and other  public sites where annual financial reports and 10K/10Q reports are filed.  Much of this you can get from the Investor Relations link on the company’s website, but you might find other interesting things on EDGAR.

Continue reading “Job Hunting Tip #4 – Build Your Research Files”

Job Hunting Tip #3 – Narrow the Focus

The first order of business is to define the perfect job, with the word “job” encompassing the industry, company characteristics and job function.  If you already have experience in a given industry, perhaps you want to continue leveraging your skills and experience.  Or perhaps you’ve been in the same industry for so many years that you really need a change of scenery.  In any case, try to hone in on a short list of industries (perhaps 2-3) that get you the most excited and seem to have good growth potential.  Then, do some basic research to confirm your assumptions.  With the Internet as a tool, find out what the analysts and major trade associations are saying.  Who are the leaders in the industry?  Are they totally dominant or is there room for smaller companies to take a foothold?

Once you have a short list of industries, it’s time to target companies in that industry.  Assuming you already know which city you want to work in (whether it’s where you already live or some place you would like to relocate), find out which companies have their headquarters there or at least some meaningful presence.  The exception is a territory sales job, which are spread all over the place.  Using the Internet again (company’s website, trade articles, local online business journals), gather information about these companies.  Some recommended data points to gather are listed below:

Continue reading “Job Hunting Tip #3 – Narrow the Focus”

Job Hunting Tip #2 – Balance

In Tip #1 I discussed the importance of treating your job search like a job and spending at least 3 hours per day on this new job.  So what are you going to do with the rest of your time when your spouse, friends and colleagues are working all day?  You have an opportunity staring you in the face.  Surely you have things you’ve wanted to do but your crazy work schedule prevented it.  Weave these into your daily/weekly schedule.  Better yet, set some targets and goals around some of the items so that you can celebrate when you achieve them.  You’re likely to get regular rejection with your job search.  So it will be great to have accomplishments to balance this out.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Fitness – If you’re not at the weight you want to be at, make this a focus.  Is there a sport you’ve always wanted to learn?  Give it a try.
  • Hobby – Maybe you have one that hasn’t gotten as much attention as you would like
  • Kids – If they are in elementary school, why not have lunch with them once per week?  If they are older, now you can go to every game, performance, etc.
  • Projects – Do you have family videos that you’ve been meaning to compile, edit and produce on DVD?  Have you been talking about cleaning out the attic or garage for years?  Have you wanted to install a compost pile or water retention system?  Now is your time.
  • Volunteer – There are infinite ways to volunteer.  And giving back will definitely make you feel good about yourself and will give you a bigger picture reflection of your situation.

See the rest of my series on Job Hunting Tips here.  I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Interviewing.

Job Hunting Tip #1 – Hunting for a Job is a Job

My first advice is to treat job hunting as a job itself, especially if you are out of work and need to get back into the workplace.  Too many people feel that glancing through the classifieds, searching some online job posting sites and letting a few
friends know they are looking for a new job is sufficient.  But my strong recommendation is to introduce some discipline, planning and focus into the process.  Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Get up at roughly the same time you would for a regular job and go through your normal work day morning routine.  In fact, do better than that by eating a better breakfast, seeing the kids off to school or whatever you weren’t quite able to do when you had the pressure of being in the office by a specific time.  The main point is to not sleep an extra 2 hours every day and get yourself into a new rut.
  • Dress in business casual attire.  You can decide how far to go with this but the main intent is to put yourself into a serious work frame of mind.
  • Spend your full morning each day of the work week, up until lunch, in your new job – searching for a job.  If you’re following the various tips in this job hunting series, you should easily be able to spend 3+ hours per day.
  • Let your family know you’re “at work” during this time period each day.  For those of you that have worked from home, you know the drill.  But for those of you that haven’t, you don’t want to be interrupted with things that wouldn’t have been important enough to call you at work to discuss.  That’s the litmus test.
  • Set weekly targets for yourself.  How many email outreaches and/or phone calls are you going to make?  How many new companies are you going to investigate?  Keep track of progress and even consider assigning points to various tasks and accomplishments if you the analytical type.

The concept is simple.  Until you find a job, your job is finding one.

See the rest of my series on Job Hunting Tips here.  I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #9 – The Post-Interview Audit

If you haven’t searched for a job in a while, then you’ll be updating your resume and using it without knowing how good it is.  Of course, you should get advice from family members, friends and former work colleagues.  But there’s another hugely valuable audit tool to gauge the effectiveness of your resume.  It’s the post-interview audit.

After conducting any sort of interview using your newly updated resume (including phone interviews), immediately pull out your resume and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did they specifically notice from my resume?  If they use phrases like “I saw that you _____.  Tell me more about that.”, then you know they got the information from your resume.
  • What did they not ask you about that you were really hoping and expecting they would?  Potential formatting problems and an opportunity to use the Quick Glance Test described in a related blog post.
  • What did they misunderstand?  In other words, they asked you a question and you found yourself clarifying their initial observation or conclusion.

You should do this following your first few interviews and after any interview that went especially well or especially poorly.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #8 – Upper Management Positions

If you are interviewing for a position on the senior management team, there are a couple of additional resume sections that can help if you have the background and experience to populate them.  Such sections include the following:

  • Board Positions (including advisory boards)
  • Mergers & Acquisitions – describe each one, including the value and your involvement before and after.
  • Funding and Capitalization – describe each occurrence that you had involvement in
  • Conference Speaking Engagements

Another dilemma for executives is the length of the resume.  This problem can be solved by having two versions.  The complete version that has all of the items in the list above and a fair amount of detail throughout should be called your Curriculum Vitae (CV) while the 3-page version should be called your Resume.  Your initial solicitations should be done with your Resume.  But in your solicitation, make it known that you have a more complete CV available upon request.  In fact, put this at the end of your resume in place of where you would otherwise put “References available upon request”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #7 – The Quick Glance Test

Here’s a great exercise that I tell everyone to perform.  Give your completed resume to a friend or family member that has not seen it before.  The less they actually know about your professional background, the better.  Tell them that you are going to give them a short amount of time to glance over your resume and then ask them to tell you what they remembered.  But don’t tell them the amount of time you are going to give.  Give them exactly 20 seconds to look at it. Then ask them what they saw or what they remembered.  They better have noticed at least 3 of the key things you want to be noticed or else you have a formatting problem.  This will most likely be company names that you worked for or job titles.  And possibly/hopefully something from your Skills Summary section, if you included one.

Then give them 40 more seconds to see if they can pick up most of the remaining hot points.  For a hiring manager looking through a stack of resumes, the first 20 seconds of reading will determine into which pile your resume goes (investigate further versus not a fit).  I’m not exaggerating.  A hiring manager with a stack of 30+ resumes has no choice but to spend about 20 seconds in their initial sorting exercise.  The ones that end up in the good stack will get a further look (the additional 40 seconds) to decide if they are a “definite phone screening interview” or just a “maybe for a second round if the others don’t work out”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #6 – Optimizing Your Word Selection

This is critical, especially the action verbs that you choose to use.  For example, if you accomplished some particular objective, why use a verb like “met” when you could use “achieved” or “exceeded” instead?  Also, typically you should start out each sentence with an appropriate verb rather than hide the verb in the middle of the sentence.  Consider the following:

Good management verbs

  • Directed
  • Managed
  • Oversaw
  • Led
  • Supervised
  • Assigned
  • Chaired
  • Founded

Good administrative verbs

  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Established
  • Negotiated
  • Executed
  • Implemented

Good accomplishment verbs

  • Achieved
  • Exceeded
  • Closed

Good adjectives to describe yourself (cover letter, etc)

  • Resourceful
  • Innovative
  • Action-oriented
  • Self-motivated
  • Creative

Good words to describe your soft skills

  • Negotiate
  • Persuade
  • Prioritize
  • Collaborate
  • Mentor
  • Delegate
  • Troubleshoot

Try to avoid (too passive)

  • Participated
  • Facilitated
  • Arranged
  • Influenced
  • Analyzed
  • Responsible for (except for the typical sentence immediately under your job titles that explain what you were responsible for)

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #5 – Education versus Work Experience

If you have already had two or more jobs, realize that college is enough behind you that your Professional Experience section should go before your Educational information.  Also, the further college is behind you the less you need to include about it.  In other words, after 8 years and 2-3 jobs you only need to mention the name of the college and your degree (major and minor, if you have both).  You do not need to mention GPA or various areas of concentration (unless they are important to the career you are going for).  And if you graduated with honors, that’s always worth mentioning.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #4 – The “So What” Rule

Hiring managers want to understand the positive impact people had in their various positions as much or more than the actual roles & responsibilities they had.  I find that, way too often, people spend too much space listing all of the various aspects of their job responsibilities (what they did) without stating what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the company they were working for.

I recommend following the “so what?” litmus test.  After reading each section of your resume, assume the readers are saying “so what?” to themselves.   Make sure you are answering this question for each job.  Give some real quantifiable results that you produced.  Increasing revenue, increasing market share, reducing cycle times, reducing costs, etc. – and by how much?  Anything that can be quantified to show that you actually made a difference rather than just performed your job function.  Look at the following two examples and decide which is more compelling to someone that doesn’t know you.

  • “Managed the central Texas sales region made up of six account reps and three sales engineers”
  • “Grew revenue 35% year-over-year within the central Texas sales region and achieved in excess of 125% of quota three years in a row”

If you are a member of the senior management team, it is OK to describe growth-related achievements of the company itself (revenue growth, etc), even if you were not the VP of Sales.  You were a member of the management team that led the company to these results.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #3 – Skills Summary Section

For someone fresh out of college or someone that only has a couple of jobs under their belt, this would not be appropriate.  But if you have taken a path that has enabled you to develop a diverse set of skills, you might want to put this smack dab at the beginning of your resume.  Similarly, if you are competing for a General Manager or executive-level position, you probably need to show diversity.

When developing a Skills Summary section, be careful about the order you put the skills in and even the ones you choose to list at all. They should match the type of job you want.  It’s fine that five years ago you had a job as an HTML programmer and LAN administrator.  But if you are going for a marketing management job, you won’t want to overload the Skills Summary section with a bunch of high-tech skills.  Since this section is almost always situated at the very beginning of your resume and will be the first thing the reader looks at, some people will decide to read further strictly based on this section.

Finally, don’t mention specific employers or job titles in your Skills Summary section.  Skills are areas of talent like business development, sales, M&A or financial.  The layout for this section could look something like this:

blank line

See the rest of my 10-part series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related 5-part series for Job Hunting and a 7-part series for Interviewing.

blank line

Resume Writing Tip #2 – The “Objective” Statement

This is purely my personal opinion, but I think they are a complete waste of space.  I liken them to the “What would you like to change in the world?” question in a beauty pageant.  There are only two possible answers: “Achieve world peace” or “Solve world hunger”.  It’s the same with an Objective statement.  Having read thousands of resumes over the years as a hiring manager, I always completely ignore it.  It’s common to try and fit your resume onto two pages (or three if you have 12+ years of experience).  So the space taken by an Objective Statement just isn’t worth it.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #1 – Formatting

I put a lot of effort into formatting of resumes.  After you get your basic content correct, I recommend putting a lot of attention into the formatting.  Look at spacing, font size, readability, margins, indention, etc.   Especially make clever use of line spacing, bullets and bolding.  I recommend avoiding underlining and italics if possible.

Basically, section titles (ie – Professional Background, Education, etc), company names and job titles are the first thing you want someone to see upon initial glance.  So these should be bigger and bolder than the rest of the text.  At the other extreme, the actual years of service at a particular company (ie – “1999 – 2003”) is one of the least important pieces of information, so it should carry the smallest font size within the document.

One other trick is to hold your resume at arm’s length to see if the important section titles and information are readable and easily discernable from the rest of the resume.  Also see my related post explaining a “quick-glance” test related to identifying formatting problems.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.