The bad news: You’re probably doing a lot of things wrong in your job search.
The good news: You’re also likely doing several things right.
The bad news: Some of those things you’re doing right? You could actually be doing them much better.
The good news: We’re about to show you how.
1. Sleuthing Out Contacts Within a Company, but Being Too Forward With the Approach
I like the go-getter in you. You’re not going to just sit there and blindly apply for advertised positions online. No, sir. You’re going to find and endear yourself to people on the inside of companies of interest, to give yourself a leg up on the competition. All good. But not so good if you’re charging at strangers via LinkedIn or other channels like some kind of crazed bull. That’s not networking; that’s ambushing. And no one likes to feel ambushed.
Do it Better
Approach people in a way that you’d want to be approached by a stranger. I’m guessing that you’d be more than willing to chat with or help someone if he or she contacted you in a friendly, flattering, or helpful way before asking for anything from you, right? Be that stranger. Built rapport first before you ask for any big favors.
2. Updating Your LinkedIn Profile, But Alerting Everyone at Your Current Employer That You’re Looking
Optimizing your LinkedIn profile so that your keywords, brand, and tone align with your career goals is incredibly smart. But if you’re a covert job seeker, you can run into some serious snags (especially if your colleagues or boss are among your LinkedIn contacts) if you update several things on your profile without first turning off your activity broadcasts.
Do it Better
If you’re trying to fly under the radar with your search, before you update a single thing on your LinkedIn profile, head into your privacy settings. Within the privacy controls section, select “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts” and uncheck the box that says “Let people know when you change your profile…” This will stop all announcements going out to your network, keeping you in the job-hunting clear.
3. Proactively Seeking Out Opportunities, But Not Tracking Them
It’s terrific that you’re out there networking and proactively sleuthing out potential job opportunities. But if you have no system for keeping track of what you applied for and when, who you contacted and what the response was, when they suggested you call back, and so on? Your brain is going to turn into mush trying to keep everything straight. Worse, you could embarrass yourself by forgetting where you left off with people.
Do it Better
Grab a job search tracking sheet template online (many are free), or build yourself a simple Excel file that tracks all of your job applications, networking meetings, recruiter calls, and interviews. Be sure and include a column that alerts you of status, and when you should follow up with each contact.
4. Landing the Interview, but Failing to Bring Your A-Game
One sure sign that you’ve got a great resume and LinkedIn profile going on is this: You’re landing interviews. (Totally high-five yourself for this.) But when you land an interview, you’re only halfway (or not even halfway) there—you’ve got to bring your A-game when you arrive. If you’re showing up marginally prepared, with an unkempt appearance or as a nervous basket case—and this is something I see all the time—it’s going to be very hard to kill it during this interview.
Do it Better
The time to kick back and relax is not right after you land the interview. Congratulate yourself, for sure, but now it’s time to go into full-on prep mode. Study the players with whom you’ll interview, get any insider information about the team or company that you can get your hands on, prepare to answer common interview questions, pull together a list of thoughtful questions that you’ll bring with you to the interview, and polish your dang shoes. The interview is go-time. Be ready for it.
5. Thanking Them for the Interview, But Sending the Same Generic Letter to Everyone
You collected business cards from everyone at the interview. You sat down at your computer a day later and sent thank you notes to each player. Smart! Thank you matters. And it matters a lot. You are competing with people who will not send thank you notes (no joke), so just sending them makes you a standout, in a good way. But if you send the same generic looking note to every person, your interviewers may wonder if you really do care about their company, or if you’re just going through the manners motions.
Do it Better
First, send the thank you note out faster—as in, the minute you get back to a computer. Speed is impressive. Second, take the time to craft an individualized note to each interviewer, and in that note mention something specific that came out of your conversation. You’ll show people that you were paying attention and that you’re thinking about the specifics of the opportunity and how you factor in.
None of this is easy, and plenty of the activities that make up an “effective job search” can feel awkward, confusing, or even overwhelming. So do this: Congratulate yourself on all the stuff you’re doing well, and keep fine-tuning until you land the prize.
You’ve got this.