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Search for that next job strategically

Sun., Jan. 9, 2011

Landing the right job requires more than just scanning the listings and sending in your resume, say labor experts

For thousands of folks out of work in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, the topmost goal on their to-do list is landing a job.

The good news is 2011 will be a better year to check job-searching off your list. In general, hiring seems to be rising, especially in six major sectors.

The experts say people re-energizing their job search need to divide the process into two parts: identifying the job you want, then landing it.

Both parts of the equation have several critical steps that make or break a successful job hunt, say those advisers.

Finding the job you want

Employment counselors suggest that as many as 80 percent of jobs are never advertised. Those unlisted job openings form a hidden job market, said Ray Keevy, an employment specialist for WorkSource, a Washington state job assistance agency.

He and others say searchers need to look beyond the obvious employers. If you’re a cook, check with hospitals, long-term care centers and colleges and schools, and ask if they are hiring someone for meal preparation, Keevy said.

A second suggestion is to start by looking for the right company, then finding a job in that firm you can fill, he said.

Dianne LaValley, division director at Spokane’s Accountemps professional staffing office, suggests first finding your target firms, then developing connections that will land a job there.

That’s valuable, LaValley said, even if that firm is not hiring right then.

“If you’re an unemployed account manager, make sure you network with this region’s accounting association. Make sure you’re involved with members of that association,” she said.

That set of contacts will broaden your professional network. The payoff can come as you continue staying in touch with the association members, talking with them about their firms, or about job prospects, LaValley said.

Also, make sure many of those people know what your resume looks like, she said.

LaValley advises going one step further in working the network: Find which associations or nonprofits attract executives from a company that you’re targeting.

If Jonah Jones, COO from Acme Dogfood, helps or volunteers at a North Idaho nonprofit, you might volunteer there and establish a connection, LaValley said. “You have an accounting background and you can ask the nonprofit, ‘Do you need accounting assistance?’ ” The payoff can come when Jones discovers your accounting skills, said LaValley.

That’s being strategic, not sneaky, she said.

Diane Nelson, who is president of area recruiting company Humanix, agreed that networking involves full-time effort and creative self-marketing.

“I recommend that when you’re in job-search mode, treat it like a full-time job. You have to focus … on finding people who can help by suggesting leads for you,” Nelson said.

Jaxon Riley, among others, urges people to identify someone holding a key job at a company one would like to work for, and set up an informational or “reverse interview.” This involves using strong personal skills to get a foot inside the door.

When calling that executive, one doesn’t need to talk about job openings, said Riley, a WorkSource employment specialist. Instead, say you want to talk about the company’s industry sector. In the interview ask which skills and steps helped that person get his or her job, she added.

The result: The jobseeker has added a person to his or her professional network. From then on the jobseeker can contact that person for tips or suggestions or career leads.

Landing the job you want

Area employment coaches have several guidelines to improve your chances of landing a job:

Customize your resume for the job you’re seeking. Keevy and others say listing jobs chronologically won’t work as well as listing job skills in a bulleted resume list. Try to use words that are the same as those listed in the job requirements, such as “team leader,” if that is the term used, rather than supervisor.

Simplify your resume. LaValley said people throw too much information on some resumes. “You don’t need your address,” she said, because cell phone number and e-mail address are what most employers want to have.

If time gaps appear on your job history, explain them: “Such as ‘cared for ailing parents’ if that explains a time gap,” LaValley said.

Clean it up. Ask an editor to proofread your resume to find errors. “I’m amazed at how many people don’t really proof their resumes,” said Nelson of Humanix. Research the company that will be hiring. Find the top 10 similar companies in the area or region and learn as much as you can. Practice having answers to basic questions, and prepare questions you can ask about the company.

Market yourself. Use personal marketing to distinguish yourself and accent your job skills. If you have a blog or a Facebook page, use that in your resume and communications with recruiters. If a company is looking to hire someone for a design job, send links to work you’ve collected in your online portfolio.

Add skills. Identify job skills that you need to upgrade in order to compete. Riley and others who counsel jobseekers find job candidates who know they need stronger computer skills or help in crafting a strong resume. WorkSource and other area groups offer regular classes that provide such skills.

Be a pro. In the interview don’t get too personal. LaValley strongly cautions against straying into politics, religion or family issues. Plus, be humble.

Dress for success. LaValley also urges dressing “to the nines” for an interview. The candidate’s first encounter with an interviewer sets the tone.

Follow up. Companies differ in their readiness to respond to follow-ups to an interview. Some firms don’t mind frequent callbacks. Others might tell you to wait and let them call you. Riley suggests the once-per-week rule.

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