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July 14, 2008

Avoid These Job Search Blunders

 

Jen Pulsen found out his company would start laying off exactly one year ago. So he decided to develop his own process for finding a new job. He started the journey based on what he did 10 years earlier. Years ago all he really did focused on a resume revamp and selectively pursuing a few contacts. The economy for top sales professions seemed excellent then so it didn’t take long to secure interviews. Back then, it was only a matter of about 30 days before he got calls and interviews. On day 67 he agreed to a position in healthcare sales. But job search rules changed in the last 10 years. After months of searching today he had little results. What worked then was not working now.

Fast forward to today-other than posting on the Internet and looking on a few niche sites, it seemed like hiring practices weren’t that different than years ago. But after months of searching things started to get very frustrating for Jen Pulsen.

“Look, I thought I would do all the basic and right things I did many years ago,” says Jen, “and I would get the same kind of response. I also wasn’t ready for some seemingly innocent questions from recruiters as to why I was downsized.” This time around his medical product line faced some lawsuits and competitors entered the market. With margins shrinking and a sales territory broken apart by a now “greedy company” he relied on the old practices of job search to get the same results.

Jen tried and failed by focusing on what worked 10 years earlier: “I polished my resume, contacted some of my colleagues and began some generalized networking. This produced several initial discussions with human resource managers and third-party recruiters. So I kind of thought I had momentum. Some of these people gave me pointed resume advice such as: change headers, do an ASCII version, add more accomplishments, post it on some of the main sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. Look at Medzilla and more. I did all these things. But I did not get interviews that I wanted.”

Four months into the current job search Jen Pulsen started wondering what else he needed to do. Some panic set in. “I did my generalized networking and started looking at competitors. I even talked to them. They were worried about some old non-compete I had signed. Out of my niche area of medical product sales the third-party recruiters said I didn’t have the recent experience I needed to work in the field. That got me angry once or twice. One even said I sounded a little bitter on the phone about leaving which made me wonder about my interview skills. Then I started shotgunning my resume to anything I saw that looked even close. I even customized it for each position or so I thought. That didn’t work either.”

In his job search journey or early journey Jen Pulsen burned lots of expensive job search gasoline so to speak. In many ways nothing he tried to do seemed hurtful or even fatal to his search. But in the most competitive fields like medical or healthcare sales for example it takes more than common, years old strategies to secure employment. Overwhelmed and feeling neglected, Jen Pulsen started getting desperate after a few months. This common feeling amongst jobseekers is not limited to a type of industry.

As Jen Pulsen put it: “It feels like what you might feel like in a vacuum I guess. Air spins and I don’t go in the right direction. I just spin and not in the direction I want.”

Despite unemployment or macro statistics that change weekly and monthly, a job search journey must be productive, positive and carefully planned.

Here are the top five mistakes Jen Pulsen made in his first 90 days of search that you need to avoid:

1. Get Over Your Last Job and Get Ready for Tough Questions. Let’s say you left your position non-voluntarily. Okay you were fired or let go. Jen Pulsen did not practice or have exact interview responses to common questions about why he left his job, why he was downsized and what he thought or could prove his transferable sales skills were. Every person needs to practice developing careful responses to questions like “Why did you leave your last employer?” You may need to practice this in front of a trained interview advisor or on video. Body language, phone etiquette and voice tone can give away things like bitterness and anger even when that is not what you intended. Now, at over 40 years old he sensed that age might be in the mix and hurting him. “I had not plan,” Jen says, “regarding my age as an issue in the employment or hiring process deal.”

2. If Your Resume Is Not Ready Do Not Shotgun It Out. People develop resumes with online templates or copy from their friends “good” resumes that helped “land them interviews” and then sort of steal the look for themselves. This hit or miss approach employed by Jen Pulsen did not work. In this way his resume never combined an online and offline version that focused on value propositions and achievements throughout. It did rely on some specific accomplishments but did not move the reader with keywords and bold language that proved his clear, contemporary value. Also, the cover letter needed to complement the resume. In the covering statement, he needed to suggest why his skill set possessed both direct, transferable and immediate value to the company he intended to work for next.

3. Be Ready to Customize Your Resume to Every Position. Additionally Jen did not customized his resume to each position. Well, he did or so he thought he did. That mainly consisted of him changing headers on the resume and first paragraph of the cover letter. That may not be enough for his online (scannable/ASCII) and offline (Word) versions. Be willing to work with a professional resume writer and get good at complete customization of your excellent documents for each position. Be willing to read, research and adopt language from the company website and advertisements. Back up your claims in the document you intend to send or post.

4. Haphazard Networking. Many jobseekers reconnect with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and clients. One person even said to Jen during his search: “Say Jen, what have you been up to? I never hear from you unless you need something from me.” According to Jen, this person seemed to reflect the awkwardness of networking while in job search: “What I realized in the comment he made to me was I had let key contacts go and then, when it seemed I needed them, I was in a hurry to reconnect. If I did it over again I would have nurtured key contacts before I needed them. It wouldn’t be so haphazard.” Jen Pulsen and most jobseekers need to develop a networking gameplan before the emergency strikes. Who are your key contacts now? What can you do to develop relationships with 10 key hiring decision makers if your job blew up and you were let go today? This effort may take months. But it is better to ask these questions and work on this now and not when you are in a crisis. Even if you have been layed off work to make more natural connections to key contacts you should have nurtured earlier. Make it easy for them to help you. Look for win-win ways you can help them. A good career coach can help you plan for this if you have not had good habits during your current career or job.

5. Develop Your Online Brand. Build your career foundation in person and online. Today’s recruiters do things that seem really unsophisticated before they call you. In fact they often simply punch your name into Google.com. By doing this they find out at least a piece or two about you or even sometimes mistake you for others. Ten years ago Jen Pulsen did not need to find out what was being said about him online. Yet when a hiring manager or recruiter puts your name in a search engine, either nothing comes up or they find others with the same name and can’t distinguish you from the others they see listed. Right or wrong, hiring decision makers look at how you may be perceived by clients by doing research on you. In order to shore up your identity online you may want to work with an online identity expert. Work on carefully building your reputation on Linked In and ZoomInfo but do not stop there. Take a look at how to maximize what you have done to further build an online reputation.

Today’s job search can be as simple as slapping whatever you call your resume online and hoping for the best. But a concerted and focused effort to claim your digital reputation while employing current best of breed job search strategies from the beginning is better. Do fumble and bumble your way to new employment opportunities. Focus on what works today and utilize this knowledge to be a more informed career seeker.

One Response to “Avoid These Job Search Blunders”

  1. December 30, 2008 at 4:09 pm, Dave Baldwin said:

    I can vouch for this one; I’ve tried the “shotgun” approach and can attest to the fact that indiscriminately spraying resumes doesn’t work.

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