By Mary Jo King, NCRW, NCOPE

More than 70% of résumés do not survive online applicant tracking systems (ATS). More than 60% of job opportunities never get advertised anywhere. 96% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates. Chances are about 40% that your next job will come from networking.

These statistics are fluid, but remarkably consistent. Rather than discourage you, they should indicate that best practices can be applied for a successful job search. Here’s an outline of the coaching I provide to my clients.

Job Posts – Make sure your qualifications are a good match before applying. If a degree is required and you do not have one, for instance, move on or try a back door approach. You will not rank high enough to get an interview.

Networking and Cold Calling – Use LinkedIn and industry contacts to expand your job search. Attend job fairs and networking events. Make a “hit list” of companies that interest you, make contact inside, and get your résumé into their hands. Stay in touch regularly to achieve TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness).

Résumé – Keyword rich and ATS friendly, your résumé should be error free, feature perfect spelling and grammar, and focus on the metrics of your career success. This is a marketing tool, and should have strategic content that highlights qualifications and minimizes “red flag” information. Use Word documents for uploading, and PDFs for emailing.

Cover Letters – 50% of hiring managers regard cover letters as essential, and view applicants who do not write them as lazy and disorganized. Your cover letter is the beginning of the sales channel. It should be brief and targeted. Direct your letter to a specific person whenever possible.

Applications – When asked to complete an application, fill it out completely. Never write “see résumé” in any blank space. Make sure your employment information agrees with your résumé, and remember that this is a legal document. Do not provide false information of any kind.

Social Media – Pay attention to your public image! Do a Google search of your name. Your next employer is likely to do this, and you need to know what they will find. Eliminate questionable posts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media, and maximize your privacy settings everywhere you can (except LinkedIn–once your profile is in good condition).

LinkedIn – This time-tested social media has more than 760 million users. The free service is usually sufficient. Develop a strong profile with a branded headshot, keyword rich content, and 100+ contacts. Complete the skills keywords to the maximum 50. This section was created especially to help hiring managers find you. Get and give written recommendations (as differentiated from endorsements). Join groups and follow companies. Making improvements and status updates on a weekly basis helps to improve visibility.

Research – Learn about each company and its industry before the interview. Read the company website, check for news articles, and understand industry trends. Knowing your subject matter will help you perform at your best.

Interviews – Your in-person interview begins in the parking lot with an early arrival, a clean car, and a smile for everyone you meet. It succeeds with good listening skills, concise answers, and thoughtful questions. Be ready to tell short stories about your successes. Be honest, objective, and accountable. Prepare for a telephone or video interview with the same careful detail as an in-person interview. Always ask for the job, or at a minimum, to move forward in the process.

Follow Up – Keep a log of all your job search activity, so you can follow up at the appropriate time. Send out thank you letters via snail mail on the same day, or next day at the latest. Your letter should be short and direct. Express your thanks, emphasize your suitability for the position, and reiterate your interest in moving forward to the next step.

Other Stuff That Matters

All your documents should feature the same branded letterhead.

Prepare a list of references in advance. Usually three professional references are sufficient, and be sure to include titles and all contact information.

Bring copies of recommendation letters to the interview, and consider quoting the best remarks on your résumé.

If asked about salary requirements, begin with quoting a range. Here again, research is important. You can find out a lot about current standards on websites like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com – even that of specific companies and positions within them.

Recruiters and employment agencies can be helpful. Understand the differences. Do not expect them to be great communicators; the good ones are very busy.

Stay relevant with continuing education, seminars, and independent study. Websites like YouTube, Lynda.com, and LinkedIn’s Coursera offer online training in a wide variety of topics.

Get out there! Circulate, go to relevant events, and consider volunteer work – especially if you are unemployed. Volunteerism is good networking, it can lead to paid work, and it gives you something current to put in your documents.

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