By Jenna Goudreau
In this most challenging job market, proven methods that will land you the job are an absolute must.
Despite what some think, landing a job during a recession is not an impossible feat. There are openings out there, and the search for top talent is ongoing. Increased competition may slim your chances, certainly, but it won't stamp them out. You can get an offer, with a few smart strategies and a heavy dose of hard work.
In Pictures: Top 10 Tips To Land That Job
Just ask Kendra Trahan of Winter Garden, Fla. A regional sales director for four years at Bausch & Lomb until the lens company's recent reorganization (it has been shedding jobs globally after moving out of the public sector in 2007), Trahan says she saw the writing on the wall long before she was officially laid off in June. She had already been reading up on 2.0 resume-building and job-hunting tactics.
Trahan also hired a personal marketing service, ITS of Denver, Colo., to develop a job-search business plan and refresh her resume. Instead of a chronological listing of her previous positions and responsibilities, agent Larry Michele advised her to create a new CV that focused on her skills and accomplishments. He also suggested she use specific keywords in her resume to optimize search software on employment Web sites. Trahan uploaded her revised resume to about a dozen sites and sent it out in targeted mailings to companies with open sales or training manager slots.
One hit. An HR manager of Salix Pharmaceuticals in Orlando, Fla., scheduled her for an interview for a sales manager position on July 10. Trahan was one of seven top candidates, and impressed by her confidence and background, the manager asked her to attend a series of interviews at the North Carolina headquarters a few days later. Trahan got the names of the six people she'd be meeting with and got busy. She researched the company, its products and the interviewers, wrote up questions for each person and outlined a business plan for the position.
Trahan performed brilliantly in the interviews. She got an offer that week to start the following Monday, leaving her out of a job for less than a month.
"It is a different playing field now," says Eric Winegardner, a vice president of Monster, a top job search and recruiting Web site. "It was a candidate marketplace, and now it's an employer marketplace."
However, Winegardner also believes that there are still "hundreds of thousands of jobs in every sector," allowing plenty of chances to find one that works for you. He suggests approaching the job hunt as a competitive challenge rather than a losing proposition.
Step 1: Customize Your Pitch
Winegardner says the days of sending out hundreds of the same resume with cover letters addressed "To Whom This May Concern" are past. Networking will help you discover job openings--and get your application on the right desk--but it only goes so far.
To catch a recruiter's eye, a winning resume will highlight your greatest accomplishments at previous jobs rather than your routine workweek responsibilities. And a concise cover letter should read like a carefully crafted marketing pitch, reflecting your knowledge of the company.
The same research and precision should be exercised in the interview process. "Don't go on blind dates," says Nancy Keene, a director of Stanton Chase International, an executive search firm. She believes that preparation is the best and easiest way to nail an interview.
That means learning about the company and the interviewers so that you can tailor your message to their needs. It also means knowing yourself. "Command the statistics of your life," Keene says, including all of the key facts and numbers about your previous work experience.
Step 2: Show Results
"In an interview, results are the bottom line," says Jill Smart, chief human resources officer at Accenture, the management and technology services giant. "Everybody can talk about experiences and skills. Translate that into an impact." Added 10 new high-profit clients last year? Mention it. Saved dollars by recommending a new tech system? Now's the time to share.
One way to prove that you're a results-oriented worker is to provide supplemental materials showcasing hard evidence. Trahan put together a "brag book" that detailed the solid numbers of her past performance. She also went one step further, creating a business plan for Salix that stated her goals 30, 60 and 90 days into the job. The combination of previous results and a plan for future impact helped tip the scale in her favor.
Step 3: Get Inside
Experts agree that understanding the corporate culture will help you land the job. All top candidates will fit the job requirements, but interviewers want to know that they'll fit in.
Trahan recognized this and sifted through her contacts to find someone who worked at Salix. She discovered that an acquaintance on LinkedIn was connected to a Salix employee. Through her contact, she set up a phone call and asked the employee questions about the corporate atmosphere, style and value system. She discovered that the company was, in fact, results-driven. Trahan says she was more confident going into the interview because she already felt knowledgeable about the internal environment.
Another key item to remember about culture, warns Monster's Winegardner, is that people will talk. Smart candidates realize that the interview begins the moment you're on the company campus. One off-hand remark, perhaps grumbling about the pace or traffic of an unfamiliar city, may get back to the boss and hurt your chances. View everyone--from drivers to receptionists and executive assistants--as people you hope to impress and someday work with.
Step 4: Make a Winning Impression
Your appearance and presence contribute to the tone of an interview. Catherine Kaputa, author of The Female Brand, believes that, in many respects, women have important business advantages over men, namely communication and empathy skills. On an interview, women should tap into these attributes by reading the environment and using corresponding body language. Kaputa believes a winning first impression begins with a confident entrance, walk and greeting.
Trahan agrees that women are generally more adept at mimicking others, which will put an interviewer at ease and show respect. She made sure to lean slightly forward in her chair and maintain eye contact to show engagement in the conversation.
But beware. Women can also be the targets of ingrained stereotyping. They often have a reputation of being too chatty, says Keene of Stanton Chase. Whether that's true for you or not, the label may hurt you. Be concise and try to keep answers focused, she advises. If the interviewer looks distracted or impatient, it's time to wrap up.
Since Trahan began her new job about three weeks ago, she's been on the other side of the desk. She's already hired eight new sales people. She looks for many of the same things that she's mastered herself: knowledge, work ethic and confidence. About her latest interviews, she says, "I ask them to bring their resume to life for me. I'm looking for them to sell themselves."
It worked for her.
In Pictures: Top 10 Tips To Land That Job
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By Jenna Goudreau