A while back I wrote a post about my journey to find my first job out of college. Here I’m compiling a list of the most helpful job search tips that I’ve found to help you find a job or internship quickly and efficiently. I have personally used these job search tips to land an engineering role at a fortune 100 company 2 months ago. My results from applying these job search tips: 95 job applications, 6 interview requests, 1 offer, 126 days elapsed, 4.478% response rate with tailored resume, 0% response rate with untailored resume.
I earn a little commission if you buy something through some of the links in this article. I labeled them with “affiliate” next to the link. Just to be clear, I don’t recommend any products/services I wouldn’t use myself.
1. Keep Track of Progress
Before you start sending applications, create a spreadsheet keeping track of every job that you applied to. Excel has a pre-made template that you can use if you search “job search” in the templates search box or you can make your own. This will let you back-reference any jobs that you applied to if you hear back and manage/organize the status of each application. You can keep track of metrics like response rate, number of jobs applied to, and average time per application.
It will also give you an empirical measure of your job application method’s effectiveness. More specifically, if you make a change in your resume or application technique, you can directly see how that change affected your results.
But most importantly, a job application database will give you a big boost for your job search mentality. It will allow you to feel like you are making headway in your job search rather than running in circles.
2. Write Your Resume the Right Way
If you don’t already, use a resume template. Here is a link to a popular one that thousands of people have used. An ex-recruiter from some of the top companies in the world recommends it as his preferred template (and best of all, it’s free). The quickest way accomplish a goal successfully is to copy someone else who already accomplished it.
Once you have a template, write in your accomplishments for each role, not your responsibilities. Use numbers and specifics to quantify the results, even if you have to guestimate. The people reading your resume are looking for someone who actively goes and gets things done (accomplishments). They are not looking for a slacker who passively waits for their boss to tell them what to do and does the bare minimum to get by (responsibilities).
If you can, try to get a professional resume/career advisor to read your resume. Usually, your college’s career center can help you with that for free. Topresume will give you one free resume critique. Posting your resume on the resume subreddit is also an option. There are also paid resume writing services, but I personally don’t think those are necessary, especially since the typical rates are $200 or more.
3. Tailor Your Resume
The most important thing to do with your resume is to tailor it for each job application. From my own experience, sending out many applications without tailoring lead to exactly 0 interviews. When I started tailoring my resume, that’s when I started getting interview requests. Hiring managers hate reading generic resumes.
Besides that, you have to get around the applicant tracking system (ATS). The ATS scans your resume for keywords to determine your resume’s match to the job posting. Often the ATS will throw out your resume before anyone ever sees it. The ATS most likely includes buzzwords that are irrelevant to the job responsibilities, but happen to show up in the job post. These include words like “Product,” “Procedures,” “Sequence,” “Guidance.”
To beat the machine, you have to think like a machine. In my job search, I used jobscan (affiliate) and skillsyncer. If you have your school’s email, you can get a 1 year free trial of skillsyncer. These tools scan the job posting for keywords similarly to how an ATS would and compares your resume for keyword match percentage. They recommend an 80% match rate, but I’ve found that isn’t necessary. I got some callbacks with only a 50-60% match rate. Just make sure to integrate the important keywords smoothly into your resume and not throw them in randomly.
When you send out your resume, be selective about what roles you apply to. If you properly tailor, the process should take 45-90 min (not including the time to find a relevant job posting). Since there are only 24 hours in a day, you have to allocate that time wisely. Only select roles that fit your background pretty closely and were posted recently (within a week).
4. Leverage Your Network
If there was a single most important point to emphasize in these job search tips, it would be leveraging your network. By far the quickest way to get a job is to have a connection bring you in. Reach out to your school’s alumni through LinkedIn. Find alumni who are currently doing what you want to do or alumni who graduated with your major and are doing something you are interested in. I used hunter.io (affiliate, free for < 50 searches) to find their company email if their LinkedIn profile didn’t list it. Ask for a quick talk on the phone asking about their role. I used this email template when contacting alumni:
Subject: UCSD alumnus seeking your advice
My name is ________. I am a MS Nano/chemical engineering graduate from UCSD who found your information on LinkedIn. May I have 20 minutes to ask about your experiences at _______? I am trying to learn more about process engineering careers in the _______ industry and your insights as a fellow UCSD alumnus would be greatly appreciated.
I recognize this may be a busy time for you, so if we are unable to connect by email, I’ll try to reach you next week to see whether that is more convenient for you.
Thank you for your time,
You will get a response about 30-40% of the time, even if you’ve never met the person prior. The goal of the call is to learn about the role and get any suggestions/advice they might have for you. In his book, the 2 Hour Job Search, Dalton recommends following the TIARA format for informational interviews (Trends, Insights, Advice, Recommendations, Assignments). I don’t recommend directly asking if they can give you a job or referral. That is essentially asking them to put their reputation on the line for someone they hardly know. If they would feel comfortable enough to do that, they would do so without you having to ask. While you aren’t directly asking for a job, these conversations can still lead to referrals (I got a few of those) or interviews with a hiring manager (I got one of those).
5. Prepare for Everything Before an Interview
Preparation is everything in the interview. Before you get into the interview, you should have a whole arsenal of prepared responses for potential questions. To build a strong foundation for these responses, convert your previous responsibilities into STAR format stories that highlight your accomplishments. You can then create a STAR format story for common interview questions and interview questions you find on Glassdoor. Once you have those, rehearse them 10 times. By the 10th time, the responses should come out smoothly and with hardly any mental effort.
After you finish an interview, send a thank you email about 24 hours later. Mention specifics about what you thought about the role/the company and any questions you forgot to ask them. Once that’s done, it’s out of your hands. You can try following up if you want, but don’t expect that to single-handedly change someone’s decision on if they will hire you. You should expect rejection as the norm, but don’t take it personally. Sometimes you don’t get the job for reasons completely outside of your control. Just keep applying and networking until someone extends an offer.
6. Manage Expectations
Of the job search tips I’ve seen, an underrated tip is to balance your expectations. A well-balanced outlook believes that finding a job is truly achievable, but at the same time prepares other options just in case. Job seekers with an outlook like this do everything in their power to maximize their chances of finding a job. At the same time, they know when to change gears and pursue other options.
It’s possible you’re looking in a field with limited opportunities and should reconsider your career. There are plenty of other ways to make a living besides a traditional 9-5 office job. In my case, I set a deadline for myself to find a job. If I didn’t have any potential leads at that point, I would take a coding bootcamp and switch to a career in computer science.
If you are fortunate enough to get a job offer, know when to negotiate the salary/benefits. Most career sites will tell you to always negotiate, but realistically, you should only do this if you can afford to lose the offer. I’ve had an offer rescinded before just for asking to negotiate (following what I read on career sites). This was a huge blunder because I had no other leads at that point and time was running out to find a summer internship. It felt like a punch to the stomach. Luckily, I did find something else at the last minute, but that was a huge learning experience for me. If you can’t afford to lose the offer, don’t negotiate and take it as is.
If you are searching for your first job, feel free to be selective. Often the first job will dictate your career path for years to come. It will be hard to escape from something not what you had in mind, even if you thought it would be a stepping stone to where you want to be. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to take a “stepping stone” job as a janitor at Google if your goal is to become a software engineer at a large tech company. If the job wasn’t what you had in mind, don’t be afraid to turn it down.
At the same time, don’t restrict yourself to one specific role in one specific industry. There are many jobs out there that don’t align with traditional expectations for a college major or a specific job title, but could use your skillset.
7. Invest in Yourself
The job search takes time. About 5 months on average to be exact. With that in mind, be prepared to play the long game in the job search. Take some time to invest in your own learning and personal growth and take regular, planned breaks. Find ways to fill your time with something productive or educational like a part-time job or a class.
Read books and educate yourself. I think about books as the totality of a person’s life experience with a topic condensed to a few pieces of paper. There were several books I read during this time that I thought were helpful in my job search: the 2 Hour Job Search, Never Eat Alone, Designing Your Life, Thriving at Work. On a similar note, podcasts are also good to listen to while commuting. I listen to the Tim Ferriss Show, Freakonomics, the Ted Radio Hour, and This American Life.
If you aren’t a fitness person, now is the time to become one. Besides feeling good about yourself, it will also help you clear your mind and helps combat depression. Eating the right foods goes hand in hand with that. Do some research on your own and figure out what works best for you.
Job Search Tips Conclusion
What I’ve come to learn through my job search is there is no quick fix that will all of a sudden get you a job (aside from knowing the right people). The job search is a process that needs continuous improvement and refining of technique. Try to stay positive and develop a growth mindset during this period of your career. I wish you luck in your job search. Let me know in the comments if these job search tips helped or if you have any other tips that helped you in your job search. Feel free to share this post if you think it would help someone out.
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