The Ultimate Guide on Getting Hired
If you’re embarking on your first job search in a while – or, you’ve simply never studied best practices for how to get hired – you’ll want to work on your job search strategy moving forward.
As the world churns and priorities change, it’s important to stay up to date on the research-based methods that will get you the job you want in the easiest, most efficient way possible. And since your time and energy are both invaluable, you won’t want to waste them on job search processes that are bound to be ineffective.
The good news? Optimizing proven strategies is likely to streamline your job search and help you cut to the chase in finding the new position best suited to your skills, background, and personality. Further, having a clear-cut plan is bound to save you from frustration and improve your confidence during a process that can be stressful for many people.
In that spirit, here’s some of our best advice for embarking on a job search that will get you hired as seamlessly as possible.
Here’s what to expect in this How to Get Hired Guide:
- Craft Targeted Resumes for Each Potential Job
- Tips for Writing a Targeted Cover Letter
- Optimize Your Job Search Using LinkedIn
- Overcome Your Personal Networking Obstacles
1. Craft Targeted Resumes for Each Potential Job
Your resume is likely the most important tool in your job search toolkit, and as such it’s crucial that you start your job search by fine-tuning it to best appeal to potential employers.
That may mean tossing out preconceived notions about the efficiency of sending the same standardized resume to each potential employer. In today’s highly competitive environment, you must ditch the “one-size-fits-all” approach and customize each resume you send to feature the attributes that are of most interest to that employer.
Why? So you’ll stand out among the hundreds or even thousands of resumes employers often receive to fill a single job opening. To do that you’ll need to achieve two things:
- Make it through computer screening.
- Capture the (human) attention of the recruiter who’ll ultimately read what you’ve written.
Not only do most employers now employ an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to swiftly help them narrow down likely candidates, but statistics show they only spend about 6 seconds reading each resume that makes it through the computer gauntlet.
Customizing each of your resumes to grab employers’ attention takes much longer than creating one standard resume and sending it out en masse. But it’s a necessary investment of your time and energy that will pay off with better responses.
Here are our tips on how to get hired with a customized resume:
- Emphasize experience relevant to the job. Prioritize those aspects of your background, skills and experience that are most likely to impress the target employer. Make it easy for the hiring manager to see at a glance why you’d be an excellent fit by drawing close comparisons with your assets and the ones being sought.
- Don’t include everything. Leave out (or just minimize) aspects of your career past that seem irrelevant to the job you’re pursuing. You can always discuss those elements further if you land an interview.
- Write key achievements using the C.A.R. method. Smart job hunters optimize or “spin” accomplishments on their resumes to better convey to recruiters what they’re capable of accomplishing. One of the best methodologies for doing that is C.A.R. – an acronym for Challenge, Action and Results. Through C.A.R., you optimize action words and powerful language to convey your ability to face challenges, solve problems or otherwise be a proactive team member on the job.
Start by sifting through your education, volunteer work and job experiences and considering the tangible results you’ve achieved in those roles. Rather than merely listing your job responsibilities, dig deeper to find concrete examples of specific actions you’ve taken in response to situations or challenges. Ideally, the reader will be able to link those actions to real issues facing your employer and/or your industry. Start the brainstorming by asking yourself these kinds of questions:
- How have I met or exceeded challenges I’ve encountered on the job?
- Have I managed a department or work group? In what capacity, and what did we accomplish?
- Have I received promotions, awards or other special recognition, and if so, what were they for?
- Have I managed a budget to favorable results? How large was the budget?
- Have I developed/guided new systems, procedures or policies with favorable results?
- Have I helped boost efficiency, and have the results been tangible?
- Have I shown resourcefulness by identifying problems that needed solving?
- Have I accomplished something using fewer resources than before?
- Have I written papers, reports or articles that have made an impact?
- Have I helped others meet their professional goals?
Use your answers to frame the challenges involved, the actions you took in response and the positive results that followed, then form statements that summarize those accomplishments. When possible, describe them in tangible, monetary or otherwise quantifiable terms, avoiding cliches such as “team player,” “good communicator” or “detail-oriented.” For example, while an outdated resume might say you handled hiring and training for your department, a C.A.R-optimized resume might say you “Actively recruited and oversaw training for more than 200 employees, helping boost retention 20% during my tenure.” If possible, limit your final resume to three C.A.R. statements for every job or experience you list, erring on the side of being short, concise and factual instead of needlessly wordy.
Feature a Personal Branding Statement
In the past, job seekers were advised to place an “objective statement” at the top of each resume stating the goal of their job search – something like “Seeking a role as an accounting manager in a progressive manufacturing setting.” These days, that’s considered virtually useless because it fails to succinctly explain what you can do for a new employer.
Hiring managers now favor the personal brand statement, a one- to three-sentence summary of who you are as a professional, what makes you unique and what you’ll bring to the table for the specific employer you’re targeting. The best ones are brief, catchy and compelling, so you’ll want to carefully wordsmith based on your personality traits, unique qualities, accomplishments, and the problems you may be able to solve for employers. At the same time, you need to make it easily searchable by algorithm by incorporating key words and phrases such as your target job and your most important skills.
Reconfigured with personal branding, the aforementioned resume statement might turn into something like “Call me the numbers ninja of the CPA world. Last year I ciphered tax law, revised budgets, upgraded operating procedures and trained staff to help save my employer more than $300,000. Seeking to optimize those skills as accounting director for a mid-sized to large manufacturer.”
Use Strategic Keywords that will Alert Applicant Tracking Systems
One of the simplest strategies of how to get hired is incorporating keywords from the job post. A good portion of employers today use software programs known as ATS that automatically sift through the resumes and cover letters they receive online. Often, those systems can also seek and find other, unsolicited info posted about you online. They’re primarily designed to identify and flag specific word and phrases deemed important to the companies and their job openings, with the intent of making life easier for recruiting managers by narrowing down the most viable candidates.
As such, you have a much better chance of making the cut and passing through ATS criteria if you can make educated guesses about the keywords being sought, then plugging them selectively into each of your resumes.
Find viable keywords by reviewing the job titles and descriptions you’re pursuing, job requirements repeated throughout the job description, looking for similar job postings in the same industry and brainstorming qualifications recruiters are probably seeking, including key certifications and skill sets. Once you’ve settled on likely keywords, look for organic ways to incorporate them into the wording of your resume. Note: Make sure you incorporate any and all job titles associated with the positions(s) you’re seeking.
2. Tips for Writing a Targeted Cover Letter
Along with your resume, it’s important to include a customized cover letter each and every time. This is a crucial step in learning the key aspects of how to get hired. That may feel burdensome, but the extra step is necessary to maximize your chances of passing through screening and getting an interview. The truth is that a well-written cover letter can give you an extra advantage, since many applicants put little thought into them or neglect to send them at all. These are key tips to consider as you craft each one:
- Aesthetics matter. Your letter should look professional, free of clutter and easy-to-read, with standard margins, clean lines and a style and size of font matching your resume.
- Curate info to one page. Fine-tune your copy so it neatly fits onto a single page without feeling crammed-in. Include white space, leaving room between your salutation and main content, between each paragraph and between your main content and signature.
- Write in the company’s voice. Check out your target company’s website and social media presences, then use that to inform your tone. Chances are, you need not be excessively formal; you should usually aim for phrasing that’s genuine, truthful, conversational and approachable so you come across as a real person.
- Target everything toward that one employer. Aim to customize the entirety: your salutation, introductory paragraph, summary of qualifications (one to three paragraphs or several bullet points) and closing statement, ending with your signature and contact information.
- Personalize your salutation. Learn and use the name of the hiring manager whenever possible. Check the job posting, search LinkedIn by entering the company name and “HR manager,” or review your LinkedIn profile for contacts who might have access to his or her name. You could also call the company directly and ask the receptionist to tell you who’s conducting the job search.
- Strategize you intro statement. State the exact position for which you’re applying and briefly explain why you’re interested in that role and/or company. Rather than emphasizing what YOU want, suggest how you might benefit the company and help solve its “pain points.”
- Highlight key achievements tailored to the job. Leave out those that have little to do with the position you’re seeking. Don’t repeat everything you’ve included in your resume; instead, position your accomplishments a bit differently and/or highlight key assets you haven’t fully described.
- Focus on keywords and key phrases. Strategically pepper your content with words that will make it stand out as it passes through ATS and human screening. Take the words from the job title/description, from other job postings in your field and from your knowledge of the skills needed for your target job. Seek ways to work them naturally into the wording.
- Spell and grammar check. Use apps and/or friends to review what you’ve written to ensure it’s accurate, relevant and easy to digest. This is so important!
3. Optimize Your Job Search Using LinkedIn
As you line up resources in preparation for how to get hired for your next role, it’s important to make your LinkedIn profile as appealing as possible, both to recruiters and the search engines that work on their behalf.
In this digital age, LinkedIn has become a powerful tool for matching employers with prospective employees, with more than 690 million users over 200 nations and territories worldwide. More importantly, a whopping 95% of recruiters utilize LinkedIn as a major sourcing tool for seeking candidates. Perhaps, best of all, it’s open to anyone and at its basic level it’s free.
When optimized, LinkedIn empowers you to present your brand to a wide range of recruiters and HR decision makers. It lets you reach out to friends and
acquaintances who could help further your career and offers multiple resources for making your job search process more efficient. Using it to its full capacity may
take time, effort and strategy, but should pay off in terms of better exposure to your target employers. With that in mind, here are some key tips:
Follow guidelines for updating your profile.
If you wish to prevent your present employer or co-workers from being aware of your job search, ensure nothing in your profile implies you’re dissatisfied with your job or actively searching for a new one. That’s typically a matter of setting controls on your profile that keep your contacts from being notified of all of your activities.
If discretion isn’t necessary, however, you should turn “Manage active status” to all connections and change your public profile button. This way, search engines have full access to your information, including job and education changes and work connections. Make your profile available to search outside of LinkedIn, and allow it to appear in search results after searchers view profiles with similar keywords. Enable InMails, make your email address visible to all and allow it to be automatically exported with your other data. Then opt to be notified when you’re mentioned or tagged by other LinkedIn members.
Once you get rolling, you can also build your career credibility by sharing career-relevant posts each day, or even positioning yourself as a thought leader by creating and posting a regular blog.
Write an "About/Summary" section that gets noticed.
To grab the right kind of attention, you’ll want to craft a relevant, interesting and easy-to-follow statement that effectively summarizes your professional background, your career goals and your unique attributes relevant to your target job, while explaining briefly why you’re a strong candidate. Aim for a
tone that’s professional, yet conversational and friendly.
As with your resume, you should opt for strategic action verbs such as managed, optimized, led, grew, handled, oversaw, directed or organized that convey a sense of purpose. Be sure to include a searchable term such as “Actively seeking employment” or “Looking for new opportunities” that makes your intent
clear to readers.
Add proof of your expertise.
Leave out anything your target employer is unlikely to care about. Focus on achievements instead of merely listing past jobs, and when applicable add in quantifiable numbers and statistics like “25% annual growth or “10% production cost reduction.”
Follow length and style guidelines.
Note that you’re limited to 2,000 characters in your summary, so make them count by wordsmithing until you can provide a compelling summary of who you are within that boundary. Ensure your wording flows, verb tenses match, dates are accurate and spell check is completed.
Carefully work in keywords.
Follow the same process as you did for your resume and cover letter for inserting as many strategic keywords as possible relative to your industry and target job. LinkedIn can assist by automatically suggesting relevant keywords based on your job search. Avoid cramming in so many keywords that your wording becomes awkward.
Use your connections strategically.
The understanding is that it’s OK to take full advantage of the help your LinkedIn connections can offer in your job search – as long as you help others in return when it comes to their career goals.
Start by accepting invitations from other LinkedIn members and actively seeking more from your circle of friends, acquaintances, co-workers, family members and other key contacts. After that, they might enable important introductions, offer job search suggestions and/or bolster your LinkedIn profile by offering endorsements, recommendations, or tips on how to get hired in your desired role. You can easily search your connection database to learn which ones might have connections to key companies, organizations
and people relevant to your career goals.
Foster your connections by checking your message feed daily (and responding to messages); offering your own endorsements and recommendations; tagging others in relevant posts and generously liking, sharing and/or commenting on the information they post.
4. Overcome Your Personal Networking Obstacles
The bottom line is that networking is of vital importance to your job search, whether it’s conducted online or in person. The fact is, sitting in front of a computer and spitting out resumes to every job posting just doesn’t work for most people.
For introverted people, that can be a daunting truth, but this is a necessary step in how to get hired. Still, a commitment to networking is of vital importance in today’s job market because it’s so effective. More than 80% of job seekers say their networks have helped them find work, according to Balance Careers, and LinkedIn notes that networking was the No. 1 proven best source of job leads for those who’ve successfully found work. In fact, LinkedIn experts recommend people spend 40 to 60% of the time and energy they put into their job searches on contacting and communicating with others who may be able to help them with their quests.
The good news is that networking isn’t about begging for help, begging for a job or aggressively promoting you; it’s about establishing and building long-term relationships. Networking is a great forum for exchanging information and ideas – for all parties involved.
Through networking, you work to develop contacts from a wide range of people ranging from people you know to people you likely don’t know well (casual acquaintances, friends of friends, etc.) to people you’re meeting for the first time, such as other college alumni or other members of associations to which you belong.
That said, many people haven’t learned how to use personal networking to their full advantage. Here are some top roadblocks to getting started, and tips for overcoming them:
Fear. Many of us are just not comfortable asking others for help; maybe we feel awkward, don’t know how to approach people, are scared of rejection or are wary of coming across as needy. Further, since the pandemic, many of us are just plain out of practice in approaching and conversing with others. Knowing that many others find networking challenging may help you overcome your uneasiness, and if you start with small steps, you’ll likely start feeling more comfortable. Begin with the options that intimidate you the least, think about what you’ll say ahead of time and remember to ask others what you can be doing to help them in return. Note that most people like the good feeling that comes from helping others, and as such they’re likely to want to help you succeed.
Lack of a solid plan. Sometimes our impulse is to just “wing it” when asking others for career help or advice. But a focused job search plan calls for a more structured approach. Thinking of your search as a campaign with a clear objective and well-planned steps can keep you on track, make you feel empowered and stop you from wasting too much emotional energy on your quest. To help track your progress, we recommend keeping written records of your interviews, conversations, referrals, impressions and other key information along your journey.
Failure to allot enough time. If you’re working during your job search process,it’s only natural that you may not feel like spending yourafter-hours time meeting or communicating with others who can help you. Still, you need to be disciplined enough to set aside the time to make that happen. Dedicate a certain amount of time each day or week to connecting with others who have the potential to assist you, whether you’re emailing a friend, taking a former co-worker out for coffee, arranging an informational interview, attending an industry event or calling a vendor with whom you’ve worked with in the past.
Procrastination. For too many job seekers, networking is seen as an afterthought or something to try if more traditional job search methods aren’t paying off. In reality, it should be one of your first priorities; your contacts could be key to pointing you toward important opportunities that will inform everything else in your job search plan. In short, communicating with your contacts early on could ultimately save you a lot of time, effort and energy.
Failure to leverage your entire network. You should start your job search process by listing everyone you can think of who may be able to help you. Now is the time to put pride and reticence aside and enlist support from your entire “team” of friends and acquaintances. Those people can come from a number of sources: Networking events, professional groups or trade associations, past managers, coworkers, alumni, social media contacts or those you meet at your child’s sporting event. You may have to make an effort to reconnect with past contacts, but that could be well worth the effort.
Add Professional Organizations to Your Network
As you search, it may be worth your time and money to become a duespaying member of groups related to your target job or industry. Consider professional and trade organizations, college alumni groups, nonprofits, or event and conference sponsors or groups founded to promote networking in your field. They may give you access to new job opportunities, tips on how to get hired, and connections, and being able to list the membership on your LinkedIn page and/or resume will help you appear community-minded and interested in issues relevant to your interest.
Not sure where to start? LinkedIn offers opportunities to join multiple forums for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests. You may also wish to review the LinkedIn pages of others in your field, including co-workers, competitors, board members, professors or fellow college alumni, for the groups that align closest with your career goals and interests. But you could also take a broader view and join groups with wider career scopes such as the American Association of University Women, Rotary International, Toastmasters International, MENSA, your local Chamber of Commerce, local young professionals groups, etc.
Use Your Organizations in Your Networking Efforts
After joining a group, review everything from its coming events to its resources for helping members find work. The organization may stage conferences, seminars and workshops through which you can meet and mingle with others in your field, or it may offer valuable information about job openings before they’re known to the public. It may even present opportunities for you to build credibility by holding office, giving presentations on industry topics, mentoring others or otherwise sharing your knowledge.
5. Preparing for Your Job Interview
It’s common knowledge that getting the interview can be half the battle of securing the job, so if you’ve made it that far you’ll want to go in forearmed and ready to impress, having every possible advantage at your disposal. To that end, here are some interview strategies and suggestions:
Conduct comprehensive research. As part of your interview strategy you should learn everything you can about the company. That includes knowing the position and the people with whom you’ll interview with so you can anticipate their questions, planning meaningful responses and formulating your own insightful questions ahead of time. The knowledge you gain should leave you better-positioned to evaluate the employer even as its people evaluate you, and being prepared should help you feel calmer and more clear-headed before and during your conversation.
When contacted for an interview, try to get the names and titles of those with whom you’ll be meeting. That way you can sleuth out something of their backgrounds using Google and LinkedIn and perhaps find common ground that may serve as a communication ice breaker.
Here is some other helpful info on how to get hired using Google, the company website and/or the company social media platforms:
- What is the company’s size, location history and structure?
- What is its mission, vision, values and culture?
- What does it do, and within that, what are its specialties?
- What awards or recognitions has it received?
- Who are its customers?
- What market position does it hold? Fortune 100 company? Fortune 500 company?
- Who are its competitors?
- How is the industry trending?
- What is its financial situation?
And here are some additional interview strategies where you might find that information:
Your own network. Knowledgeable personal and/or LinkedIn connections may offer you the most open and honest views about its operations and or people.
The company website. Form a picture by reading about its mission and values, scope of business, team members, geographic location(s), recent accomplishments, press mentions, etc. Access recent annual reports if they’re included.
LinkedIn. Read the entire company profile, check for contacts among its employees and read posts and articles by others that mention the company. If you identify a contact, he or she may offer interview tips, give you the “scoop” on behind-the-scenes activity or even put in a good word for you with interviewers.
Company reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed. Read these with a critical eye since disgruntled employees tend to leave negative reviews more frequently than happy employees leave positive ones. Still, they can provide insight into company pros and cons, as well as commonly asked interview questions. The employer’s social media presences. While carefully curated by the employers, these can still inform you about company culture and provide a feel for its people and priorities.
Google and Google News. Plug in the company name to find press releases, blogs and objectively written news about the employer. You may better understand its recent challenges, pain points and accomplishments and learn of any scandals or bad press.
Other business and industry sources. Periodicals such as D&B Hoovers and online registries such as Owler and Nexus/Lexus regularly track company statistics.
Competitors. Reading up on other top contenders in the employer’s industry can help you learn more about industry news, challenges and triumphs -- and where the employer stands in the pecking order.
Prepare your outfit/look ahead of time. This is really important tip for how to get hired. Try on your interview attire days ahead to make sure it’s complete, well-maintained and well-fitted. Decide early on how you’ll style your hair and makeup and which coat and shoes you’ll wear.
Fully read the job description. Make sure you understand the requirements of the job and Google any terminology that seems unclear; that way you’ll have a clear picture of how well you match up. You might even Google the company and job title to learn who last held the job, and where they’ve landed.
Anticipate questions and prepare answers. Brainstorm potential interview questions, considering standard ones, those specific to the job and those you may be asked based on your unique background and skills. Include potentially tricky queries like “Tell us about yourself,” “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Tell us about a time you failed on the job.” Using the C.A.R. method, formulate truthful answers that highlight your accomplishments that align most closely with the job and company at hand.
Practice, practice, practice. Repeatedly rehearsing their probable questions and your best possible answers can only help you feel more calm and prepared during your interview. Consider staging a mock interview with a friend who can give you objective criticism, then memorize your routine so you feel ultra-comfortable with your presentation.
Get some rest. Do everything in your power to get a good night’s sleep beforehand. On the day of the big event, ward off stress by giving yourself plenty of time to get organized.
Avoid These Interview Landmines
Showing up late. For phone or video interviews, ensure the technology you’ll need is ready – and that you’re well-prepared to sell yourself – in plenty of time. For in-person interviews, map out the route so you know exactly how you’ll get there. Plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early, building in extra time for heavy traffic, traffic accidents, unexpected detours, bad weather and other unavoidable situations.
Dressing inappropriately. Your entire presentation should be clean, well-maintained, wellfitted, conservative and aligned with present-day styles. Never dress casually, no matter the position for which you’re applying. Beyond that, your best rule of thumb is to dress one step above the daily dress code at your potential employer. If the workplace is casual, choose business casual. For men that means pressed, creased slacks, an open-collared shirt, a blazer and, optionally, a conservative silk tie. Women should opt for either a dress or a dressy sweater or blouse paired with a knee-length skirt or slacks. If the workplace is business casual, men and women should both opt for suits paired with conservatively colored shirts, avoiding distracting accessories.
Arriving unprepared. The last thing you want to do is show up to your interview flustered and disorganized, so think about what you need to bring and gather it well ahead of your appointment. That may include extra resumes, a plain notepad and pen, portfolio, presentation materials, your laptop, directions, etc. Some candidates also bring letters of recommendation, awards or certificates of achievement, educational certificates or transcripts or copies of impressive work projects.
Using your cellphone. Convey respect and close attention by leaving your phone completely off before, during and immediately after your interview.
Displaying an arrogant or annoying personality. Showing confidence in yourself is a good thing; coming across as cocky is not. Aim to portray yourself as interested, respectful, polite, optimistic, thoughtful and genuine, not rude, phony, self-centered, pessimistic or otherwise unpleasant to be around.
Failing to listen to (or respond to) interviewer questions. Display thoughtfulness and respect by paying close attention to what you’re being asked and answering as directly and honestly as possible. You may be tempted to half-listen so you can plan your next response, but careful listening builds better trust and rapport and helps you understand what the interviewer is looking for. Never talk over or interrupt your interviewer, and don’t ramble on about yourself unless you’re asked to expand on a statement.
Lying or exaggerating. It’s OK to present your skills and background in their best possible light, but never a good idea to outright lie. Most untruths are easy to check out, and if you’re caught, your integrity (and job prospects) will suffer.
Speaking negatively about a current or prior employer. If you need to explain why you parted ways or plan to part ways, make sure you speak in objective and respectful terms and avoid blaming others.
Asking about salary too early in the process. It may be frustrating to have to power through multiple interviews before learning the salary range for a projected job, but it’s still considered bad form to talk money during initial interviews. Instead, conduct online research to try to determine whether you’re in the same financial ballpark.
Understanding as much as you can about proven interview strategies for finding a new job can help you feel confident and empowered as you move through what can be a challenging job search process. Improve your chances of getting hired by forming a solid plan that will smooth your progress during your entire journey – from job postings to job offers.
Based on the latest research about job hunting and interviewing, LeadUp Career’s Resume Toolkit includes all the details you’ll need on how to get hired. Email us today at Contact@leadupcareer.com to learn how we can get started on the road to success.
Table of Contents
- Feature a Personal Branding Statement
- Use Strategic Keywords that will Alert Applicant Tracking Systems