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Sunday, November 2, 2014

50 Job Search Secrets Straight From the Mouths of Hiring Managers


By The Muse Editor, November 2014

If you want to know what it takes to land your dream job, well, there's no better place to get advice than from those who hand out those jobs.

And we’re here to help: Whether you’re updating your resume, prepping for an interview, or getting started networking, check out these killer tips—all straight from the mouths of Muse hiring managers and career experts.


Your Resume


1. Focus on What You Want, Not Just What You’ve Done

“Spend some time considering what you really want out of your next job, your career, and your life. Be honest with yourself, and try to get clear and specific. Then rewrite those ‘goal’ and ‘objective’ sections (yes, they’re OK in some cases) with newfound clarity.”

—Dr. Suzanne Gelb


2. Tailor Your Resume for Each Job

“It’s so important to tailor your resume for the position, cherry-picking your experience to highlight the parts that are most relevant. I know it can be hard to give up the many bullet points expounding on your awesome experience… But if they aren’t relevant to the tasks that the job asks for, these parts should be very brief (or removed altogether).”

—Steph Stern


3. Show Why You’re the Perfect Fit

“You’ll want to tweak your resume based on the position and company, making deliberate connections of how your experience, skills, and personality are a perfect fit for the job. Use industry terms, spell out accomplishments that you know will make an impact, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.”

—Angela Smith


4. Don’t Include Everything

“Focus on the person coming across in your resume. If you want to be ‘the social media guru,’ anything that doesn't at least tangentially relate to social media should be de-prioritized. If you want to come across as ‘the academic research all-star,’ by all means put your educational experience on top, throw in your GPA, and get in-depth about your awards and publications. Feel free to leave off your real estate experience.”

—Liz Elfman


5. Get Inspiration From Others

“Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people at your level in your field, and see how they tell their stories. Which ones are most compelling or stand out the most? See what you can learn from them and how you can apply those lessons to your own resume.”

—Adrian Granzella Larssen


6. Use Numbers

“You increased recruiting? Give us the percent increase. You raised money for charity? Tell us how much you raised! This can turn average-looking experiences into impressive head-turners and help distinguish you from other candidates.”

—Alexandra Cavoulacos


7. Kiss the Buzzwords Good-Bye

“The average resume is chock-full of sorely outdated, essentially meaningless phrases that take up valuable space on the page. Eliminate them, and you’ll come off as a better, more substantial candidate—and your resume won’t smack of that same generic, mind-numbing quality found on everyone else’s.”

—Elizabeth Lowman


8. Add Non-Work Work

“Volunteer work, particularly if it’s long-term or if it gives you the chance to lead a project from beginning to end, can be a great substitute for full-time work. Some organizations give titles or recognition to regular volunteers, so find out if there are any formal credentials that you can use (if not, just use “Volunteer”). Just like you would for a paid job, list bullets that show your major accomplishments and what you learned during your involvement.”

—Ashley Faus


9. Keep it Simple

“It’s understandable to want to make your resume stand out a bit from the typical resume, but getting creative in InDesign isn’t the way to do it…. You’re far better off spending your time trying to maximize the top half of your resume. This could mean writing a resume summary with your most relevant qualifications or maybe pulling all your most relevant experiences into a separate section at the top of your resume and relegating the rest into an ‘Additional Experiences’ section. As long as you’re trying to maximize traditional resume formatting rather than do something entirely different, you should be safe.”

—Lily Zhang


10. Don’t Rush

“It’s much better to spend a few days perfecting your resume and cover letter (and having someone look over it) than be the first application in the hiring manager’s inbox. And always—always—read over your materials before you send them in (especially if they were composed at, say, 2 AM).”

—Avery Augustine


Your Cover Letter


11. Think Outside the Resume

“Refrain from regurgitating all of the same information already detailed in your resume. Your cover letter should complement your resume, in that it delves into the high points and provides a fuller picture of who you are after the employer reads both.”

—Megan Broussard


12. Be All About Them

“In other words, avoid writing about how working at your target company will create a great boost for your resume and career. Hiring managers are fully aware of that. What they need to know is how you’re going to provide a boost for the company.”

—Mark Slack


13. Boost Your Confidence Before Writing

“There’s a very simple mind trick that changes your entire cover letter-writing approach in an instant. Pretend. Pretend that the person you're writing to already loves and respects you. Pretend that the person you're writing to already believes that you're worthy and valuable. Pretend that the person you're writing to doesn't need a big sales pitch. Return to your cover letter draft, start fresh, and see what pours out of your fingertips this time.”

—Alexandra Franzen


14. …But Not Too Much

“While you should be confident about your experience, do tread lightly. Too much confidence can make employers think you’ll be too much to handle. You should also avoid comparing yourself to other candidates with more or different experiences—focus on what you bring to the job rather than how you compare to others.”

—Hellen Barbara


15. Rock Your Intro

“Try a high-personality lead in like this: ‘Having grown up with the Cincinnati Zoo (literally) in my backyard, I understand firsthand how you’ve earned your reputation as one of the most family-friendly venues in the State of Ohio. For 20 years, I’ve been impressed as your customer; now I want to impress visitors in the same way your team has so graciously done for me.’”

—Jenny Foss


16. Let Your Passion Shine Through

“The best cover letters I’ve read are from people who have a passion for my company, and can make that passion come to life on a page. The letters that make me say, ‘Yes! This person really gets it.’ Because, at the end of the day, I want to hire people who already get it. Most hiring managers do.”

—Kathryn Minshew


17. And Your Personality

“When you’re writing your cover letter, remember that the hiring manager is likely going to be reading a lot of them (and she probably doesn’t really enjoy reading them much more than you like writing them). So, while you want to make the letter professional, you also want to put some of your own personality in it. Crafting an engaging letter with some color will catch people’s eyes and make them think, ‘Wow, this would be a fun person to work with.’”

—Erin Greenawald


18. Talk About Results

“Results stand out, and potential hires can really stand out by highlighting what they’ve done and the results. It’s so important to hire talent who can execute, and my focus as an employer is to determine if hires can theorize, strategize, and execute their plan. There are plenty of thinkers and not enough doers. Separate yourself from the masses, and demonstrate what you have done.”

—Andrew Thomas


19. Be Creative

“A job applicant once sent us a really witty cover letter that ended with a promise to play ‘Careless Whisper’ on the piano on command if given the job as our copywriter. Just reading his letter gave me the gut feeling he would get along well with our young, witty, and laid-back culture. He’s now been here for two years (though unfortunately doesn’t play the piano on command anymore).”

—Kenny Nguyen


20. Go Above and Beyond

“An even better way to let the hiring manager know you’d excel in the position is to show exactly what you can do. In addition to your cover letter, write a memo that outlines what you think the major challenges of the role would be and how you'd tackle them. Or, create a slide deck with ideas that you'd bring to the role to grow the business. This above-and-beyond effort won’t only show off your skills, it’ll show you’re serious about the role—and force the hiring managers to look at you as a serious candidate.”

—Kari Reston


Networking


21. Get on LinkedIn—All the Time

“If you're looking for a job, LinkedIn should be your social media priority. In your profile, include a meaty description of your experience and strengths. Flesh out each job opportunity with your responsibilities and biggest wins. Call people in your network who you've done great work for, and ask them to post a recommendation. Curate and create content around the industry or specialty you're most interested in securing a job in, and share that content with your LinkedIn community.”

—Alex Honeysett


22. Ease Into It

“If the word ‘networking’ gives you the willies, you can ease into it by getting active online—via LinkedIn groups and by following issue leaders on Twitter. Then, once you’ve developed a rapport with a few contacts, arrange in-person meetings to grab coffee and chat.”

—Rebecca Andruszka


23. Look for Built-in Networks

“Most schools have local alumni chapters in major cities nearby, which offer happy hours, fundraising events, conferences, you name it. Joining the chapter, signing up for events, or even volunteering to take on a leadership position can be a great way to naturally meet and connect with alumni. If there's not a chapter in your area, reach out to your alumni department to see about starting one up.”

—Anne Niederkorn


24. Have a Powerful Elevator Speech

“Spruce up the delivery of your elevator pitch by using language that focuses on strong leadership verbs to send a powerful, forward-focused message.
For instance, in order to shift perception of yourself from doer to leader, catch yourself before you say you ‘work on’ something or that you’re ‘responsible for’ it.
Be actionable instead. Say you lead it, oversee it, or orchestrate it. You’ll convey that you do more than simply fulfill your job description—but that you take pride in your career and aspire to continue along a path of success.”

—Jo Miller


25. Do Informational Interviews

“Whether you’re a recent grad exploring career paths or you’re looking to switch positions in your current field, informational interviews are one of the best tools you have in your job search arsenal. You’ll add useful contacts to your network, get valuable information about the companies you’re after, and learn more about the path you think you want to pursue.”

—Laura Katen


26. Get Personal

“Look for a common spark when you converse, and don't worry if it doesn't involve your business. In fact, it’s often more meaningful if it doesn’t. It goes without saying that people are more likely to want to help and get involved if they feel a personal affiliation with you.”

—Annabel Acton


27. Challenge Yourself

“I took on a networking challenge—I met with four people I knew and four people I didn’t know every month. Through these connections, I’ve already gotten an interview and many referrals—not to mention my newfound confidence and a clearer sense of direction in my career. Even if you don’t go this far, think about how you can challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone just a little bit. It might have unexpected—and great—results.”

—Anna Runyan


28. Follow Up With Everyone You Meet

“Plan to sit down the next day and send a brief email to everyone you met. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them, follow up on anything you discussed at the event, and then, make it personal. Include an inside joke from the night before, share an article you think they might like, or, if you chatted about your hobbies, mention a new band or movie you think they’d like. This little extra effort can be just what it takes to start a worthwhile relationship.”

—Susan Blond


Interviews


29. Do Your Research

“It’s key to have a strong understanding of the position and the performance that would be expected of you. This means not only reading through the job announcement with a fine-toothed comb, but also researching past and current employees on LinkedIn. Often, you will find that they describe their jobs in a way that is not disclosed in the official job description—and this unique understanding can really enrich your ability to converse about the role.”

—Ashley Stahl


30. Research Competitors, Too

“It’s really surprising how few applicants have properly researched our competitors. Candidates who really make an impact know all about our brand, as well as how our strengths and weaknesses could relate to the market in general. Researching our products is all well and good, but a grasp of the bigger picture is just as, if not more, important.”

—Marvin Amberg


31. Research Everyone You’ll Be Meeting With

“Do your research about the people who will be interviewing you. Know their professional background, interests, and experiences, and ask them relevant questions that show you did your homework. Ask the interviewer why he or she chose the company you’re interviewing at, what attracted him or her to the opportunity, and what the future looks like for the business.”

—Matt Mickiewicz


32. And Have Questions for Them

“I am often the last stop on the interview schedule. I always ask candidates if they have questions, and I often hear, ‘All my questions have already been answered.’ It’s tough to hire someone who doesn’t want to ask the founder even one question. Good candidates come prepared with a lot of tailored questions.”

—Beth Monaghan


33. Make Them Good!

“To stand out during an interview, ask the interviewer detailed questions not only about the company’s vision and successes, but also about where its weaknesses lie. This allows you to insert yourself into the future picture by relating that weakness to areas where you’ve succeeded in the past. If they think you can help make them look good, you’re halfway in the door.”

—Parker Powers


34. Have a Great Handshake

“A Fortune 500 CEO once said that when he had to choose between two candidates with similar qualifications, he gave the position to the candidate with the better handshake. Extreme? Perhaps, but he’s actually not alone in his judgment.”

—Olivia Fox Cabone


35. Pay Attention to Body Language

“When you’re asked to talk about yourself, give your body a moment to catch up to your brain before you speak. Take a deep breath, and adjust your posture. Relax your shoulders, un-cross your legs, and do whatever you need to do to switch into a more casual posture. Not too casual—you’re still in an interview—just enough to give your interviewer a few body language cues that tell him or her you’re comfortable and excited to talk about yourself.”

—Ryan Kahn


36. Make it a Conversation

“When you’re nervously trying to get on your interviewer’s good side, it’s easy to fall into a question-answer-question-answer routine. But to make a more genuine connection with your interviewer, I’ve found that it’s helpful to interject relevant questions throughout the conversation, instead of saving them all for the wrap-up.”

—Katie Douthwaite


37. Come Bearing Solutions

“The best thing a potential hire can do is come to the interview with an understanding of the company’s problems and potential solutions. Companies need employees who can help increase revenues, save time, or reduce costs. The best employees are great problem solvers. You rarely have an interviewee show up with a plan to solve one or many of the company's problems.”

—Mark Cenicola


38. Stay Positive

“There will come a point in the interview where I’ll ask, ‘So what’s missing or lacking in your current role that is making you entertain outside offers?’ And this is where it gets nasty at times. People with no filters will rant on and on about their job, boss, or company, how terrible it is, and why they can’t wait to get out of there—and it only ends up painting them in the worst light. Address the boss, job, and company in a way that is neutral, and never make it personal.”

—Nando Rodriguez and Charlene Narcelles


39. Bring a Portfolio

“Take your portfolio to a job interview, and refer to the items inside while discussing your work experience. Saying ‘I planned a fundraising event from beginning to end’ is one thing—showing the event invitation, program, budget, and volunteer guidelines you put together is completely another.”

—Chrissy Scivicque


40. Don’t Tell What You Can Do, Show

“A sales candidate we had been speaking to took it upon himself to come into the city, walk in with a dozen cupcakes, and hand them to me. He did exactly what he would potentially be hired for: walking into an office and demanding attention. It demonstrated that he knew exactly what he would be doing in the role. Needless to say, he got the interview, got the job, and is now one of our top salespeople.”

—Alex Lorton


41. Be Ready to Dive In

“Be ready with ideas for how you’d like to improve the company in your role. What new features would you be most excited to build? How would you engage users (or re-engage existing ones)? How could the company increase conversions? How could customer service be improved? You don’t need to have the company’s four-year strategy figured out, but you can share your thoughts, and more importantly, show how your interests and expertise would lend themselves to the job.”

—Alison Johnston Rue


42. Be Yourself

“I’ve sat through meetings where every answer was on target, but they were delivered with all the personality of a cardboard box. In other words, don’t be afraid to let a little personality shine through and highlight the most memorable parts of your experiences.”

—Meredith Pepin


43. Relax

“I’m not suggesting that you crack jokes or become buddies—but you should be confident and interact as if you’re already working together, through eye contact, active listening, smiling, and avoiding nervous laughter. I call it ‘relaxed formality.’ It’s an interview, so don’t get too comfortable, but try to be yourself and have a natural conversation.”

—Nicole Lindsay


44. Remember You’re Interviewing the Company

“We seek highly strategic thinkers, not people who just want a job. They should be interviewing us, too. The most memorable candidates have reached out to multiple team members ahead of and after an interview to ask questions, and some have asked to hang out for a day to experience the culture. These proactive inquiries show they are taking us seriously and strive to make well-informed decisions.”

—Emily Holdman


Follow Up


45. Email, Don’t Call

“Skip the phone and send an email. It leaves a paper trail, it allows the recruiter time to properly look up your status information, it eliminates those annoying games of phone tag, and it prevents what I call drunk dialing the recruiter. (Nerves replace alcohol, but the result is the same: leaving a lengthy, nonsensical voice mail that hurls any candidacy consideration down the proverbial drain.)”

—Yolanda Owens


46. Consider Extra Effort

“I once had an interview with a woman who sent me a handwritten thank you note. At first, when I didn’t receive the usual right-away thank you email, I thought she must not have been interested in the job. But when I found that note in my mailbox a few days later, I appreciated the extra effort she took to make it more special.”

—Ashley Mady


47. Send a Suggestion

“Sometimes you leave an interview, send a thank-you note, then realize days later that you have a great idea, something else you should’ve asked, or another example that demonstrates your abilities. When this happens, a follow-up note is the perfect time to show that the company is still on your mind and you’re really mulling on how you can help. Lead with asking for an update, as suggested above, and then go into your business question or suggestion.”

—Rich Jones


48. Don’t Look Desperate

“If you come on too strong post-interview (think ‘checking in’ to restate your interest less than a week after the interview or double communicating—emailing and then emailing again without a response from the other party), you look less like a candidate they’d be lucky to hire and more like someone who’s anxious to leave your current role. It’s not fair, but the rules of human nature apply, and someone who seems desperate suddenly seems less appealing.”

—Sara McCord


49. Be Pleasantly Persistent

“If you’ve followed up a few times and still haven’t heard back, it’s worth directly asking if you should stop following up. After all, you don’t want to waste your time, either. I’ll sometimes say, ‘I know how busy you are and completely understand if you just haven’t had the time to reach back out. But I don’t want to bombard you with emails if you’re not interested. Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up.’”

—Elliott Bell


50. Don’t Give Up

“Do what it takes to prove how much you want the job. Show that you are willing to go out of your way to chase your goals. Prove that you have a strong sense of initiative and are not afraid to veer off the usual path. Make your goals and requests clear with a sense of urgency. And make every person you meet with feel special.”

—Camilla Cho

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