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How to Focus Your Job Search

There’s no question that searching for a new job takes a lot of work. Although there are many resources available, it can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to focus your job search. Spend the time up front – before even completing an application – to define what you want to do, who you want to work for, and who can help you get the right position.

Target the Job You Want

The first place to start your job search is in your own head. What job do you want? What excites you? Where do you want to work? Is working in an office, from home, or in the field important to you? What do you want to learn? Jot all this down. It’ll help you develop a clear understanding of where you want to go.

The next step is to customize your resume to target those opportunities. Highlight the most relevant experience suited for those types of jobs. For candidates who have a longer career, it’s tempting to include all your experience. Instead, tailor your resume for the job you want versus the jobs you’ve already had. You can always add more details and history on your LinkedIn profile or offer more information to the employer if requested.

For entry-level job seekers, with little or no professional experience, include every job that would look good. Be sure to mention internships or special projects, leadership positions in college organizations, and other experience relevant to your academic studies.

Target Where You Want to Work

With a clear picture of the type of job you want, start researching the companies that offer those opportunities. Focus your job search on companies that interest you as well as seem like a good fit, whether that’s a global organization that will allow you to travel and work on projects around the world, to an up-and-coming local company, to one with an emphasis on community development and giving back.

Try to find ten companies that fit what you want. Go to their websites and look for relevant job openings. Also add to your list any past employers that you’d like to work with again. Are there any major projects going on in the industry, like a large-scale infrastructure build? Go to the website of the main project and see which companies are involved.

Target Who to Contact

Before applying, look on LinkedIn to see if you know anyone currently working at the company. In the construction, power distribution, and energy fields, everyone is within three degrees of separation. Reach out to those individuals and let them know you’re interested in applying at the company, and a particular position if there is one available. Ask if they would pass your resume to the hiring manager.

If you don’t know someone personally at the company, reach out to someone currently in a similar role and ask if the two of you can talk to find out more about the job and the company. Most people want to help others, particularly those that have similar skillsets to their own. They’ve often had someone in their past who gave them a leg up and they’re open to doing the same for someone else. And, again, they may be able to get your resume in front of the right person.

Think back to your previous positions. Are there any managers or colleagues that you enjoyed working with and would want to work with again? Look them up. See where they’re working now, as well as their previous jobs.

Lean into your network. Too often job seekers shy away from contacting former colleagues or friends, thinking, “I haven’t spoken to that person in a while. I’m worried it will look rude, like I’m asking a favor and I haven’t really stayed in touch with them.” But most people don’t react that way; they want to help if they can. The worst-case scenario is that they don’t reply to your message.

As recruiters, we often see a funny thing happen. When speaking with a candidate’s references, we usually ask, “Would you hire this person again?” When the answer is “yes,” and we tell the manager that the candidate is available, they want to set up an interview! So, don’t hesitate to reach out to your contacts. You never know what opportunities might be waiting for you.

Target the People Who Can Help You the Most

All of this is to get you – and your resume – closer to the person who is doing the hiring. The problem, however, with applying for a position via an online job board or even at the company’s website, is that your resume goes directly into a database. The individual doing the search needs to look through all the candidates that come in. More than likely they’re using a sophisticated search tool, seeking specific key words. If your resume is missing those key words, you could be overlooked, not because you don’t have the experience, but because your resume isn’t written in the “right” way.

But when you work with a staffing firm, you cut all that out. The recruiter presents your resume directly to the employer – often to the actual hiring manager. The employer trusts the recruiter because they know the candidate has been vetted and is worth considering. It’s the difference between dropping your resume into a database versus it being hand delivered. The recruiter also provides a summary of why they think you’d be a good fit for the role. So, the employer gets a lot more information than what they see on the resume.

Right now, the job market is competitive. There are more positions than candidates. Companies are having a tough time hiring the talent they need. This is why they’re partnering with agencies. Because recruiters have a macro view of the marketplace, they are a valuable resource for both employers and candidates. They work with many different clients so they can facilitate the process of not just finding talent but managing the interview and hire process. And as a candidate, they can help you focus your job search and compare any offers you get. Because of the relationship with the employer, they can also give useful feedback if you don’t get the offer. That’s very different than a generic, “Thank you but we’ve gone with someone else” letter generated by a software program.

Job searches can be overwhelming and even disheartening. Take the time up front to target the job you want, where you want to work, and who can best help you get that job.

Photo credit: Canva

by Dana Leone, Vice President of Recruitment, Planet Forward