In a successful job search, you are marketing yourself to the right audience. This presumes two things:
* you've identified the right audience or market - employers who have jobs that require your specific combination of skills and expertise
* you know yourself - the "product" - well enough to point out all your advantages and how you will solve the employer's (market's) problem.
In previous posts, I describe how you can get to know yourself, and how to target jobs that are the "right fit" for you. What happens once you have identified your "must have list" and some jobs that appeal to you? It's time to do some market testing. With feedback from others, you can revise your resume and cover letter to more accurately and effectively represent you.
Market testing in a job search occurs in several ways.
First, you'll create a resume that captures your "unique value proposition," the skills you want to use, and the work you want to do. This is your "marketing document" that instantly and accurately describes you - the "product" - to the employer or "consumer."
To find out if your resume does in fact accurately represent you, send it to a few people you trust to give you honest feedback. Ask them "what jobs do you think I can do based on this resume?" and "what message does this resume send about me?"
Example: One woman had "high integrity" in her profile. Feedback indicated this could be a double-edged sword, as some might infer that she felt superior to them or even that she thought many people didn't have integrity. Because she wants to communicate how much she values people, we took it out. Integrity is something she values greatly and so she will look for jobs where she is able to exercise her integrity. She doesn't need to hit people over the head with it, though.
Second, you'll begin to apply for jobs. Market feedback is pretty direct at this stage. Either you get contacted for interviews or you don't. If you don't, then it's time to revise your cover letter, resume or both.
Generally speaking, people don't get interviews when:
* their cover letter fails to make a compelling case for how their past accomplishments will help the employer meet their future goals. It is ESSENTIAL to describe specifically how your qualifications and experience directly match the employer's needs.
* their resume lacks measurable and directional accomplishments that indicate the impact they had on the business and employer. It is ESSENTIAL to tell potential employers what difference you made to your company and industry, how your activities yielded quantifiable or high-impact results.
Be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Ask yourself: "Would I hire this person based on their materials?" Ask those trusted people what they think. Do they think you made a good case for yourself? Did you present your strengths? Did you spell out acronyms and eliminate industry jargon? Or did you assume that people could read between the lines? The quick initial read most reviewers give a resume means that everything pertinent needs to be made explicit. There is no room for assumption and inference.
An axiom of communication is that if readers don't understand what I am trying to say, it is my responsibility. There is nothing wrong with the reader; there is something unclear, incomplete or muddy about what I have said. It's my job to be simple, direct, crystal clear in what I say. Dr. Seuss's Horton the Elephant said it best: "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant."
Third, you'll have some interviews. Interviews are perhaps the best market research mechanism. Click on the title of this post to go to an article about "Turning a Job Interview Into a Job Offer." I don't know if these tips will actually accomplish that in and of themselves, but they sure are great ideas for getting market feedback.
When you're being interviewed, you have a chance to see how someone responds to you, as well as to find out whether the job is as good a match as you thought it might be. Remember, an interview is the continuation of the conversation between you and the company that began when they published a job posting and you applied. Now is the chance for both parties to see whether in fact you and the job are the "right fit." There is a lot of information available in an interview.
For example, watch the interviewer's body language. People leaning into a table are engaged. People leaning back into their chairs are usually disengaged, possibly bored, possibly put off by you. You can reengage people by shifting how you respond to a question:
* Wrap it up if you've been talking for a while.
* Ask "have I answered your question?" or "Does that make sense?" or "I'm not sure I've answered your question?" or "Is there anything more you'd like to know about this topic?" People love it when you show you're paying attention to them.
* Ask the interviewer a question about the position or company that somehow relates to their prior question. "Your question makes me wonder about this aspect of the job. Could you describe that a little more?" or "I was curious as to how that job responsibility supports the company's goals. I have some idea, but could you describe how this job relates to the overall company goals?" People usually like talking about something they know, and you appear engaged and aware.
An interview does give you a great opportunity to fine tune your message and approach. It also is a chance to develop a relationship with the interviewer that could bear fruit in the future. If you don't get the job, you could go back to the person and ask what didn't work for them and how you might improve your approach or message.
Sometimes in an interview you can just sense it going south, and no matter what you do, you can't salvage it. In that case, you've gotten some valuable market information - that this place is NOT your "right fit" and probably it's not a cultural or personality fit. Remember that you are looking at the employer at the same time they are looking at you. So being rejected is probably a good thing in the long run, even if it doesn't feel great (and it never does!).
As the above article says, however, if you really do/did want the job, call the employer two or so months down the line to say you just wanted to check in, see if everything's going well with their new hire, and if there are any other opportunities. That's far easier if you've established some rapport in the interview, and are gracious afterward. Send a thank you note after the interview re-expressing your interest and thanking them for their time.
If you don't get the job and want to create a relationship, send a note after a rejection that reaffirms how interested you were in the position, thanking them for the chance to interview, wishing them and the company the best of luck, and hoping they'll keep you in mind if something opens up in the future.