Category Archives: Job Search Preparation

Qualify the Jobs to Which You Apply

There are basically four ways to find a job:

  1. Respond to a job advertisement.
  2. Apply unsolicited.
  3. Work through a professional recruiter.
  4. Network to a hiring need.

Although networking is, far and away, the most effective method to find a job, most job seekers waste the bulk of their job-searching time responding to job ads.  This is because networking takes courage and is therefore hard, while responding to job ads is easy.

When I coach job seekers, I don’t want to discourage applying to job ads completely.  Instead I recommend applying to one (1) job per day, and spending no more than one (1) hour preparing an effective application.  Spend whatever additional job-search hours you have available: networking.

If you give yourself only 1 hour to prepare an effective application and submit it, you don’t want to waste time by selecting a job that is a long shot.  “[O]ver 75% of resumes sent by candidates are NOT qualified for the role.”  These unqualified candidates are people who are constantly wasting their time taking ridiculous long shot after ridiculous long shot.  So, instead of quick-click applications, I coach job seekers to select the one job ad that they are MOST qualified for, and spend no more than an hour tailoring their application materials before submitting.

  The linked article (here, above, and in the quotation) gives some great advice on qualifying the jobs to which a candidate should apply. Ask yourself:

a.) Do my responsibilities today or in the past align directly to those listed in the job description (or are they highly relevant)?

b.) Do I have the required skills, educational, and industry qualifications noted in the job description?
If you can’t clearly answer “yes” to both questions, it’s a long shot, so continue to look for a job for which you are better qualified.
There is other useful information in the linked article, so I recommend taking a few minutes to read it.

Reference List

Most employers won’t call your references unless you are the final candidate for the job.  Therefore, I don’t recommend listing or offering references prior to being asked.  You can let the employer know you have references, and you should be prepared to provide them quickly, but I wouldn’t offer them unsolicited.  I usually recommend your references appear on one sheet.  I usually recommend that this information be included for each reference, and that at least three references be provided:

  1. Reference’s name
  2. Reference’s current Job title
  3. Reference’s current employer
  4. Reference’s current employer’s City and State
  5. Company or other venue where you worked together (their company may have been your client or vice versa)
  6. Reference’s Phone and/or cell number
  7. Reference’s E-mail address
  8. Reference’s Relationship to you, the applicant (again, explain the link – for example, if you were both subcontractors to the same contractor)

Although no more than three references are typically required, there are some instances where this is not the case.  For sensitive government or government contractor positions, more extensive references may be required.  Additionally, new reference assessment tools, like Checkster are becoming more common and these will require a minimum of 8 references.

Some candidates have trouble selecting the three best references for a particular position.  It’s acceptable to ask the HR representative who requested the reference what kind of references they would like, but this can be create problems if you can’t meet their expectation.  For example, if they say “we would strongly prefer all three references be from former supervisors” and you’ve only had 3 jobs – you don’t want to offer your current boss for obvious reasons, and one of your prior bosses you didn’t get along with well – you might have a problem that didn’t exist before you asked.

If you don’t want to create problems for yourself, it is generally a good idea to diversify your references, but stay as relevant to the position as possible.  At least one of the three should be a former supervisor, and it’s good if one is currently, or was previously, employed in the same industry as the prospective employer.  Finally, it is a good idea to have one that currently, or previously, performed the same function as the job you are seeking.  It is perfectly acceptable to use a reference of someone who is no longer employed by the company where you both worked together. The most important factor in a strong reference is that they can vouch for your character and job performance.

Whenever you expect that your references may be contacted, it’s important to reconnect with each reference as soon as possible and let them know that they will receive a call from a human resources recruiter, or a hiring manager. Give your references the information they need to be a good reference for you:

  • The name of the company
  • The title of the position
  • The expectations the company has for the position
  • Your primary qualifications for the position
  • Key statements you would like your references to offer

Be sure to send a thank you letter to your references after they have provided the reference.

Reference List

Reference List

Tough Love: Networking has a Goal

To paraphrase the mantra from Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign, it’s the networking, stupid. There are people who are taking the coaching and doing the hard work of networking. They’ve written down their list of 50 target companies and broken it into bite size groups of 10 or less. They’ve met with people and asked them about each of these companies and about other growth companies that they should consider. They’ve honed that list with the information from those meetings. They’ve asked the people they’ve met for the names of contacts at these companies, and they’ve contacted those people to meet with them, and further hone their list of companies. This is how they networked into growing companies and gotten considered for jobs that hadn’t yet been advertised. How have you been networking? What’s your process? Where is your list of target companies? Just talking over and over to the same handful of friends is not networking. Networking has a goal, and you can measure the progress toward the goal. If you can’t produce your list of target companies, then you don’t have a goal – you are just aimlessly responding to job ads. If you can’t show how that list of target companies has evolved over time, and how you have identified and grown your contacts within that target list over time, then you aren’t making progress.


LinkedIn and Indeed Push Away Some Recruiters

Over the last 6 months both Indeed and LinkedIn have sought to monetize more of their previously free services. This is beginning to push recruiters to seek out alternatives, and that means candidates are going to need to follow. That doesn’t mean recruiters or candidates should abandon LinkedIn, but both must recognize that LinkedIn is not the wellspring of free data that it used to be. Gathering value from LinkedIn is harder now for both candidates and recruiters, particularly those not buying the premium features, but as you can see from this article, even those paying for premium are not getting as much as they used to. From time to time I will be referencing alternative tools, as I always have, but where LinkedIn and Indeed have become the ubiquitous tools of job searchers over the last 8 years, candidates must seek new niche tools focused on their specific needs.

See LinkedIn Has Changed: It’s Not The Place It Used To Be

LinkedIn Phone Screen

Job Search Tactics Prezi Webinar March 30, 2017

In case you missed it, or if you just want to review something, I’ve provided links to the Job Search Tactics Prezi, and the audio recording below.

Click Job Search Tactics Visual Prezi (March 30, 2017) for the visual part of the webinar. You may need to register with Prezi, and you will need to ‘drive’ the Prezi yourself with the forward and backward arrows on the bottom of the screen.

The audio is available here:

I recommend getting the visual up and running and then starting the audio, then matching the audio to what you see on the screen. Pause your audio player when you want to take more time to read what is on the screen.

Blue on White O Logo

The Importance of Your LinkedIn Headline

LinkedIn headlines provide the most powerful 120 characters of language on your LinkedIn profile, and unfortunately, it is often under-utilized.  “By default, LinkedIn populates your headline with your current job title and employer” — and unfortunately most people leave it in there.  What’s really bad is that if you update your experience, say with a new job, LinkedIn doesn’t always update your default headline.  So your headline can be an out of date mismatch with your profile’s experience. Especially if you are actively job-searching, but even if you are using LinkedIn for business leads, or passively keeping yourself apprised of the market, you should review your headline.  And your headline should be aligned with the goal you are seeking to achieve.  Review this article: “The Right Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile Headline” for tips on how to use different headline types for different goals.

“How To Make Your LinkedIn Headline Stand Out” –


The first rule is that your headline should not simply repeat your job title and employer in your headline. That’s not only redundant, it sends the subliminal message that your are where you want to be, and aspire to nothing more. You want to convey that you do aspire to be something more – that you’re current role is just one rendition of what you can offer.

If you want your profile to attract attention when it shows up in a search result list, you should consider:

  1. Describing WHAT you are,
  2. Describing WHO it is you can help,
  3. Describing HOW you improve the organization, and
  4. Giving an EXAMPLE or CREDENTIAL.

You can search your connections on LinkedIn, reading what they have in their headlines.  There are also articles that provide particularly catchy examples that you may be able to tailor to your situation.  Be cautious not to be so creative that readers can be confused about what you are offering.



Assess, Plan, Prepare, Implement … Re-Assess

Anytime you find your self in an “un”employed situation – whether completely unemployed, underemployed, unhappily employed, or uncomfortably employed – you should start by taking some time to truly assess your situation.  This assessment should include not only where you are in your career, but how you got there, and where you want to go.  StartUpofYouIf you need help on figuring out where you want to go, I would recommend  picking up a copy of The Start Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.  I find this book to be a significant improvement over What Color is Your Parachute.  There are assessment tools and career coaches that can also help you assess your situation.

Once you have a sense of where you are in your career, and where you want to head, I recommend putting together a plan to market yourself.  You want to start by thinking longer term than your next position.  A career coach told me to think about the job you want to have after the next one to get myself in a forward thinking frame of mind.

I recommend you prepare a draft one-page marketing plan and share it with people you meet for informational networking.  Too often people put off networking until they are in a desperate situation.  As Harvey McKay explained in his book, you need to Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. Because the unemployed often feel pressure to quickly get a job, they can tend to push informational networking into simply asking for a job.  This can make the people you network with defensive.  There is a technique to Face-to-Face Job Search Networking using a one-page marketing plan that can relieve this pressure.

Once you’ve prepared your draft marketing plan, prepared your resume and cover letter templates, developed a tracking sheet system, ordered business cards, and organized a list of contacts with whom to network, you simply need to implement your job search plan.   LinkedIn is a great tool, especially for introverts, to aid in business professional networking, but it’s not the only tool.  In addition to other social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc) you should access other sources of contacts, such as your Outlook, gmail, or yahoo address books.

To recap:Assess Plan Prepare Implement wo borders

  1. —Assess Yourself and Your Situation
  2. —Plan Your Marketing Strategy
  3. —Prepare Your Documents, Tools, Techniques
  4. —Implement Your Search


Periodically in your job search process you should take some time to Re-Assess your progress;  determine what is working for you and what isn’t.  Don’t be afraid to change your plan, your documents, or your techniques.  Just be deliberate about the changes you make, and be objective about how the changes help or don’t help your search.


“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
― George Bernard Shaw