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Stop the (Job Search) Insanity

By Susan P. Joyce

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome." An old saying, but applicable to everything including job hunting.

If you've been doing the same things over and over in your job search for many months, but not getting a job or even an interview, maybe it's time to change your job search process.

Twelve areas where you might be able to improve your job search results with a tweak or two:

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  1. Be sure you have a clearly defined and communicated "target job" and, hopefully, potential "target employers" too.

    People often feel that by focusing on a specific job they are limiting their options. If the job seeker is too specific about the job (or even field) they want, other fabulous opportunities - that they hadn't considered or even thought of - will slip away

    Instead, the vagueness makes the job seeker difficult to help, assuming that someone wants to help them. When being told that someone is looking for a job, the natural response for most people is to say, "What are you looking for?" If you don't tell them what you are looking for, they can't help you find it.

    The vagueness also translates into an untargetted resume that doesn't contain enough of the "right" keywords for the job seeker to be found by employers and recruiters.

    If you don't know what you want to do, figure it out. Buy or borrow a copy of the classic book, "What Color Is Your Parachute." It's a classic for a reason - it works! Read the book, and do the exercises. If you are in a hurry, you can do it in one weekend. The book is revised every year, so you can purchase the latest edition. Or, if you don't want to buy it, go to your local library to borrow it. If your library has only one career book in its catalog, this is the one.

  2. Follow successful job search strategies.

    We collect data on what works for job seekers. Believe it or not, what works - more than 80% of the time - is networking! People hire people they know and feel they can trust - a friend, a friend of a friend, a neighbor, a former co-worker, a former subordinate, a former client, your college roommate's sister-in-law, etc.

    Hiring a stranger is scary and, potentially, an expensive mistake that an employer would rather not to make. Employers prefer to hire someone who is known to at least one other employee. That's what make employee referral programs so popular and successful. So, use your network to find your next job.

    See Job-Hunt's Tapping the Hidden Job Market article for ideas.

  3. Update your resume, both the information and the presentation.

    That old resume you quickly updated to add your latest job may not be representing you effectively. Show your resume to a friend, someone in HR, your job search "buddy group" if you have one, or a resume professional to see how your resume looks to them. For most people, it's very difficult to proof read your own work, and someone else's review of your resume may show you how it can be improved. We're talking about more than just spell check here, although spelling and grammatical errors are very damaging.

    When you submit your resume for an opportunity, customize it for that opportunity. Your competitors are, and if you aren't, your resume will end up on the discard pile, pretty quickly.

    See Job-Hunt's Guide to Effective Resumes for more information on resumes.

  4. Research employers in your area.

    Pay attention to the local news - a company with a new product, a big new contract or client, or more venture funding probably needs more employees. Watch your local media for stories on these companies. Then, if a person is not named in the story, call the media for the name of an appropriate person at the company.

    Then, look for a company Web site with job postings, and call the person about a job. Check out Job-Hunt's Guide to Using Google for Your Job Search for Google tips and tricks and the Guide to Company Research for great ideas on how to dig out information about employers - very handy for interview preparation.

  5. Don't limit your search to onea single job board.

    Giant job aggregator Indeed.com has the largest collection of jobs online, including both Monster and CareerBuilder (but not Craigslist).

    See Job-Hunt's Guide to Finding Jobs Online for some additional ideas and resources - employers, local classifieds, professional associations, and more.

  6. Weekly or monthly, change your resume, even just a teeny bit, and then re-post it at the job boards you use.

    Just as job openings frequently have posting dates, so often do resumes. As a result of modifying and re-posting your resume, it should look "fresh" to anyone searching through the resumes. Do it weekly (or even daily); the change does not have to be major or permanent. Some people delete their resume and then re-post it. Whatever works for you.

  7. When you are searching for jobs in Web job sites or search engines, change the keywords you are using.

    For example:

    • If you've been using the whole word, experiment with commonly-used abbreviations (e.g. "telecommunications" and "telecom") or change from the abbreviation to the "real" word.
    • If you use more than one keyword, change the order of those keywords (e.g. "jobs Ohio" may have different results than "Ohio jobs").
    • Put the keywords in a phrase, and put the phrase inside of quotations marks ("...").
    • Use synonyms (e.g. medicine, medical, healthcare).
    • Use the plural (or the singular) form of the words you usually use.
    • Try completely different words.

    Again, check out Job-Hunt's Guide to Using Google for Your Job Search for Google tips and tricks.

  8. E-mail is not a reliable communications method, so follow up e-mail with a phone call or "real" mail.

    With the 90% or more of all e-mail classified as junk now, organizations use software called "spam filters" to eliminate it. Your message may look like spam to the spam filter and be deleted or diverted to a junk mail folder. So, don't assume that your messages are received, much less read. It's a great excuse to follow up with a call or a snail mail letter and break through the communications barrier to establish human-to-human contact! [See Job-Hunt's "Avoiding Spam Filters" article for additional information.]

  9. Evaluate the job market for your target job and target employers.

    Have you set yourself off on a "mission impossible" quest? Are you looking for jobs that aren't there any more? There are very few jobs for buggy-whip makers now, although 125 years ago, buggy whips were a household necessity. Is your target employer reducing rather than expanding the number of employees? Has the world moved on, but you haven't? Check the news, industry/job guides in your library (or online). Many governments collect "job market" information which can be very helpful for you.

  10. If you are spending more than 2 or 3 hours a day online, spend less time online.

    Heresy? No! You'll get hired by someone who likes you, and the best way to present your charming self is in person. You've noticed that it's not always the most qualified person who gets the job - it's the person the hiring manager knows. So, get known! Shut down your computer (after you finish reading this article), and go out to make those personal connections that will get you your next job.

    Web sites and email can lay the groundwork for you, but it's the person-to-person contact the brings the job offers. Often, the person-to-person contacts you make in networking make your email and responses to job postings much more effective!

  11. Practice answering interview questions.

    There are many books with interview questions and answers. Borrow them from your local library or purchase a couple and read them to see the questions you may be asked. Then, try answering them, if possible in a role-playing situation where someone is asking the questions "live" and you must respond quickly.

    For great ideas about how to answer job interview questions and prepare well for job interviews, check out the articles in Job-Hunt's Guide to Job Interviewing.

  12. Monitor your online reputation.

    In a respected 2010 study, 80% of employers revealed that they were researching job applicants before inviting them in for interviews. While 70% of those recruiters had rejected applicants based on what search engines showed them, over 85% found things that impressed them when they did the search.

    Be sure to Google yourself often to find what employers find with they Google you. I call it "Defensive Googling" for a reason - it's your best defense, in addition to being very careful of what you post online associated with your name. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have caused job seekers serious problems when they weren't careful what they posted.

Bottom Line:

If you are doing the same things over and over again, but not getting what you want, change your methods because they aren't working.

Maybe you are tired of the whole thing so you are not as effective as you could be, or maybe a few improvements are needed. Find a career coach in your area (or online). Look for a job search support group and get feedback from them on your resume or get contact names for your target company, etc.


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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