Stop Spinning Your Wheels

When prospective clients contact me for help with their job search, they often tell me that they’ve been searching for months with limited success, even in a strong economy. As I ask questions about their search, I discover that they usually have a hit-and-miss job search strategy (if any), have made a series of self-defeating assumptions about their resume and LinkedIn profile, and have invested little energy into learning what makes for an effective search.

Their lack of success is based on one or more of 7 factors which can make or break a job search:

  • Too little outreach. An effective full-time search requires an output of 30 or more resumes or networking contacts weekly, while an effective part-time search requires an output of 15 weekly. If your search is generating lower numbers of contacts and resume submissions, then you may need to increase your output accordingly. A job search is a bit of a numbers game in which you have to flood your target market within a relatively short timeframe. Too little outreach will dramatically slow down your search results.
  • Too many job board submissions. One of the slowest and least-likely-to-be-successful ways to job search is to limit your efforts to online submissions – applying for jobs via job boards or company websites. In either case you are concentrating on the Visible Job Market, where only 15% of open positions are publicized at any given time. You are also maximizing your competition for targeted jobs and forcing your resume to be evaluated first by Applicant Tracking Systems (automated resume analysis software) rather than humans.
  • Too much reliance on recruiters. Once upon a time executives could share their resume with multiple recruiters and realistically expect to land a new role in short order. Unfortunately, those days are gone as a number of factors conspire to make a recruiter-based search more challenging. First, recruiters are already overwhelmed with outstanding candidates. Second, there are fewer open positions than there used to be. Third, some companies, empowered by LinkedIn, are sourcing more candidates directly and relying on recruiters less. While it’s appropriate for relevant candidates to share their bio with recruiters, you cannot afford to put all of your eggs in this one basket unless it’s unimportant to you if your search takes months to a year or more longer than it would otherwise.
  • A weak, generic career brand. The essence of your career brand is that it helps you to stand out from the crowd and appear to be a hot commodity. Without a strong brand the opposite is true – you blend into the crowd and appear to be a dime-a-dozen candidate. Infuse your resume, LinkedIn profile, value proposition letter, and marketing brief with a strong brand based on your strengths, credentials, and achievements, and utilize a thought leadership campaign to help attract recruiters and hiring executives who are looking for great candidates like you.

Poor resume positioning, poor branding, and poor career storytelling are all hallmarks of a failed search.

  • Marketing yourself with a poor resume. The days of landing a great job with a poor resume are long gone. To compete in a crowded market and land the best job you can, you need career communications tools that showcase your unique qualifications and highlight your history of quantifiable achievements. In addition, your resume and LinkedIn profile must be keyword-rich. Poor resume positioning, poor branding, and poor career storytelling are all hallmarks of a failed search. In an age where recruiters and hiring executives make snap decisions about your candidacy within 4 to 5 seconds, it is imperative that your resume excels at quickly capturing and communicating your unique value proposition, sometimes also referred to as your “Why-Buy-ROI.”
  • Pursuing the wrong targets. As part of your job search strategy, you need to hone in on the right selection of target companies. By “right” I simply mean that your targets need to align with your overall strategy. If you want to join a start-up, for example, then your resume has to detail your cross-functional experience and tie achievements to the types of benchmarks start-ups are likely to use. And your targets have to include smaller companies in start-up or emerging growth stages. In other words, it makes no sense to go after start-up targets with a resume that promotes corporate experience without demonstrating how that experience can help you help them.
  • Promoting the wrong skills or experience for the kind of work you want to do. While it’s true that employers are sometimes willing to hire candidates with less than 100% of the skills or experience they want for the job in question, it’s important to note which are emphasized as critical in the job posting and to make sure you possess them. It is also important to make sure those same skills and that same experience are described in your resume, LinkedIn profile, value proposition letter, and bio or marketing brief so that all of your documents convey the same career brand and message.

Although we have a job seeker’s market at the moment in the U.S., it’s still imperative to consider these strategies if you want to land the best possible job in the shortest amount of time.

Is your job search not producing the results you think it should? Check out the Resources page of my website, where you’ll find a rich collection of insight-driven articles to choose from.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn and has been updated with 2019-relevant content.

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.