Pick me! Four tips for getting your application to the top of the stack

In these economic times, finding a job can be one of the most daunting tasks someone can take on. It seems like every time I turn on the news I hear about depressing unemployment numbers or another massive layoff. But don’t lose all faith yet- there are jobs out there! Whether you are a recent grad, were just laid off, or are looking for a career change, the following tips can help turn your job search nightmare into a job search success. All of my suggestions can be boiled down to one overarching theme- PREPARE! Don’t go out into the job search world without doing your due diligence. If you do, you may end up looking foolish or (even worse) you may miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

  1. Write a rockin’ resume

    This is probably the most obvious tip and I know you have heard it a million times but I can’t tell you how many resumes I have seen with obvious errors… or errors in judgment. Read, reread and then have someone else read your resume before you send it out. Also, only put impressive stuff on there; mixing Kool-Aid is not an extraordinary skill (I seriously saw that on a professional resume). Also, if you decide to put an objective on your resume, please, please, please make sure it matches the job you are applying for. For more tips on resume writing, check out this blog post.

  2. The sky’s the limit… so don’t limit yourself

    Let’s say you are a scientist. You have spent all your time in school and maybe a few years after you graduated working on the bench. Why? Because that’s what you thought you were supposed to do. Sure, you love it, but who knows, you may love something else just as much. There may be career paths out there that you never even thought of—what about a career in technical services, or marketing (for the sciences, of course)? To get an idea of what is out there, go to www.careerbuilder.com and type in a few keywords that describe your experience and peruse the jobs that come up. Likewise, don’t limit yourself to the companies you always imagined yourself working for or the cities you thought you’d live in. Growing up in the Chicago area, I always assumed I’d get a job in the city, but when I was offered an amazing position in Madison, I jumped at the chance and discovered the city is a true gem. Open your mind… and your search criteria and you may be amazed.

  3. Get connected

    If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you are missing out! Join now and start building your professional network. If you know someone with a career you’d be interested in mimicking, invite him out for lunch (make sure you pay!) and discuss how he got where he is in his career. You could also ask him to take a look at your resume or forward your information on to his company’s recruitment department. Because you just paid for lunch and humans tend to adhere to the principal of reciprocity, he will probably oblige. If not, no biggie, you just had a nice lunch, learned a little something and can reach out to someone else now. Having a strong network as well as a strong LinkedIn profile makes you findable. There has been a trend lately in HR where recruiters are posting jobs on sites like Monster and CareerBuilder less and are instead utilizing their network to fill jobs. You want to make sure you are part of a pertinent network where a recruiter can find you. Don’t believe me? Check out this article from the New York Times.

  4. Have answers to the following questions in your back pocket

    “What are your greatest strengths and greatest areas for improvement?” I know, I know, it is a cliché interview question but interviewers can learn a lot from how you answer. Make sure you are being honest and in your answer for greatest strengths and make sure they are job-related. When answering the greatest weaknesses question be truthful but remember that you are putting your best foot forward. Saying something like “I tend to be late to work” is not a good thing to say; it is easily fixable on your end and makes you sound unreliable. Also, “I just work too darn hard” isn’t a weakness, sorry.

    “What do you know about the company and why are you interested in this job?” Do your research and have a good, thoughtful answer for this question. I’m always impressed when a candidate mentions some basic facts about our company that show they’ve done their homework.

    “What is your anticipated salary?” Saying that you don’t know or that the company can just pay you anything is a weak answer – it will just make you sound like you have not done your research. Look online, ask professionals in the field, and make sure to take into account cost of living; 50K in San Francisco is not the same as 50K in Austin. Many people don’t like to answer this question because they are afraid they will either low ball themselves or answer with a number that is too high and get rejected because of that. Don’t worry, if you have done your research, you should be fine. Also, ask the recruiter if that number sounds like it is in line with what they can offer and let them know that you are flexible (but only say that if it’s true!). 

    “Tell me about yourself.” Prepare a short (around 1 minute) elevator story for yourself. Keep your story work-related and discuss your major accomplishments, not every paper you’ve written.

Being armed with these tips will help will help you in the job search. It is tough out there but preparing for the right things and being open minded will give you a leg up on your competition.

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Becca McKnight

Senior Recruitment Specialist at Promega Corporation
Becca is a Recruitment Specialist at Promega where she gets to interview fascinating people and do yoga during the lunch hour. She earned her BS in psychology with a minor in dance at the University of Iowa. In her free time you can find her dancing, practicing yoga or cooking.

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