Searching for your next job may be the hardest job you will ever have, and hopefully one of the shortest. The success of your job search depends on the amount of effort you expend as well as the quality of your actions. If you are launching a new job search, it can seem like a daunting task to manage your time correctly to reap the highest impact and results.
An effective job search campaign should be treated as a full-time job. If you are unemployed, then the 40 hours or so you’d normally spend working each week should be devoted to your job search. It is easy to slip into a pattern of spending the day on other activities and minimizing the time devoted to finding a new opportunity. A good rule of thumb is to follow the 80/20 approach: Spend 80% of your available job search time on high-impact activities and the remaining 20% on lower-impact activities.
Lower-impact job search activities include reading job postings, applying to posted positions and connecting with executive search professionals. Higher-impact activities include networking and reaching out directly to leads and potential employers. The effective jobseeker spends a significant portion of their time talking and meeting with network contacts, attending networking events, using social media connections, identifying target companies and finding referrals through their network. Successful job seekers set up a plan of action to make the most of each day.
As a professional career coach, I am often asked what makes the difference between winning the job and being an “also-interviewed.” Over the years, I have given plenty of thought to this question as I have coached hundreds of senior-level executives making career transitions. Here are 10 tips that I use in my coaching engagements for how to win the job.
Tip #1: Research thoroughly.
Research makes a world of difference in preparing you with knowledge of the company, its challenges and opportunities, the interviewer(s), the competitive landscape and even the company culture. The level of research and depth of intelligence should go beyond reviewing the company’s website. Read reports, news, press releases, bios and social media commentary on the company—not just official company posts but also those of its employees, clients and competitors. Research on interviewers helps you prepare for the types of questions that may be asked and to connect with points uncovered in bios and profiles. Connections to the interviewer can include schools, community involvement, former jobs and companies as well as geographic similarities.
Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice.
Practicing for an interview is a rehearsal for the real thing. It is time well spent going over your elevator speech and preparing for potential interview questions. Consider practicing in front of a mirror or better yet, filming yourself. I have never heard any of my coaching clients say that they regretted the time spent practicing for an interview. In fact, most have felt it gave them the winning edge because they thought through their answers in advance, they knew what they wanted to convey with their responses and felt well-rehearsed and relaxed during their interviews.
Tip #3: The interview is always in progress.
Often, the interviewer will give the impression that the meeting will be casual or just a discussion. Never forget that you are being judged and evaluated throughout all encounters. Even if the interview is a friendly conversation over a burger and fries, it is still an interview and needs to be treated as an important opportunity to make a professional impression.
Tip #4: Get the chemistry right.
Chemistry makes the first impression in any interview. Decisions made about candidates in the first few minutes are not likely to change. Being able to read the interviewer’s body language and quickly adapt is a critical skill. If you are genuine and likable, you will often be given a pass for a small gaffe, or at least the benefit of the doubt in other areas. If you passed the resume screening stage, then presumably you are technically qualified and the importance of personality, style and cultural fit takes over.
Tip #5: Show enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is a vital tactic for getting the job. Companies are interested in candidates who are interested in them. If you are too analytical or coy in the interview process, you will likely be perceived as indifferent or not worth pursuing. Remember that you cannot accept or decline an offer you have not yet received.
Tip #6: Highlight your best career achievements.
Highlighting your best plays can help you win the next interview and even the job. Be prepared with narratives that demonstrate what you have achieved in your career. Carefully review the job description and thoroughly research the company, its challenges and opportunities and the interviewer(s), if possible, to make sure you can provide examples of your work with quantifiable metrics to back up your results for the key areas listed in both the job description and your resume.
Tip #7: Demonstrate your value proposition.
Demonstrating your career accomplishments as they relate to the job, the company and the interviewer(s) will differentiate you as a candidate. Look for the company’s points of pain and connect how you can put your experience and expertise to work right away to make a difference. For example, if the company is looking to expand, change direction or enter a new geographical market, make sure you are crystal clear on how you can help achieve this goal.
Tip #8: Be prepared to address weaknesses.
Consider your weaknesses that you anticipate based on the job spec, interview or research. If you know you are not a perfect fit or that that an area of concern might surface in an interview, don’t wait for the interviewer to bring it up. Make sure you are prepared to address any area of perceived weakness with a strong response. If you walk away with unanswered questions, you will probably not have another chance to redirect or correct the impression.
Tip #9: Ask for the job.
Before leaving the interview, make it clear that you are intrigued by the job and would welcome the opportunity. Let them know you are receptive to an offer and ask if they have any questions or concerns about your candidacy. This also gives you a chance to address any weaknesses or misperceptions before they have a chance to take root.
Tip #10: Follow up.
Following up after the interview with a note or email to thank the interviewer(s) provides another opportunity to highlight your strengths as they relate to the job and to show enthusiasm for the position. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the next steps and timeline for filling the position and ask if it is okay for you to check back with them within the agreed upon time. Stay in touch with the key decision makers through sharing information, articles, quick emails or calls related to things they shared in the interview. Always ask if it is okay to follow up and get a feel for their appetite for contact. I have often heard of candidates winning the job because of their persistent and thoughtful follow-up.
It is a tough job market out there, but a well-prepared candidate stands out. Approach each job opportunity with the same energy and enthusiasm that you would give your full-time job. After all, remember that while you are in transition, your job search is your job.