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The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for A Job Search

Most jobs center around your skills and experience. However, many potential employers are looking for something else: how you will fit into the company's culture and how you will work as part of a team. Here are a few tips to prepare for a job search, which should help you leave a good impression when talking to prospective employers.

It starts with branding yourself

LinkedIn is an amazing tool that highlights your career and is not used just to look for a job. It constantly highlights who you are and your expertise. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career.

Whether you are an executive or part of the team, a LinkedIn profile provides information on your expertise. You may be happy in your current role, but don’t you want to hear what’s going on in the market? Maybe there is a role custom made for you, but how will you find out about it if recruiters or companies can’t find you. Obviously, LinkedIn helps you with that.

There may even be a role in your company, but the hiring manager has never met you. It’s flattering to be pursued and it is okay to say no, but it is like the lottery “if you don’t play you can’t win.”

In LinkedIn’s case, if you are not visible you may not hear about new opportunities. Plus, what happens if you find yourself needing a new position due to downsizing, mergers, or divestitures. You may also find you did so well that you worked yourself out of your role. Overall, there is less stress when you know your profile is working for you.

Here are some basic tips on how to make your LinkedIn profile standout:

  • Brand yourself with a great picture.

  • A professional picture is best and a picture of you makes your profile have personality. The picture will help people to remember you through visualization, you become memorable and your picture brands you.

  • Titles can tell a lot about you.

Titles are important to package what you do, but the title on top of your profile does not have to be your formal title. Create two titles. One for your experience section and one for the top of your profile. Your company title can be a description to highlight your skills, saying who you are and what you are skilled at. For example, I am a Managing Director and Executive Recruiter, which tells people what I do, and it puts me in a group of people. A title like this should be used in the experience section associated with a specific company.

In relation to branding my skills I use a linked in title of “Cut Through Noise to Attract Diverse Talent | Able to Find a Purple Squirrel with a Unicorn Horn | Executive Recruiter,” which tells people what I do and what differentiates me in my work. If you want to have some fun with this, you can create a title that describes you uniquely.

So, how do you build the rest of your profile? Here are some tips:

  • Keywords are all the rage in technology. So, make sure you shout from the roof tops the keywords that describe you. For example, if you work in oil and gas, use the play/assets you work in. If you have a unique skill set, make sure that is described in your summary or under your experience. When someone is looking for a drilling engineer working in the Permian, they will use the words drilling engineer & Permian, and any other important words.

  • You can also add a paragraph at the end of your summary that says: “Areas of Expertise: keyword, keyword, keyword.” This helps Google find you too!

  • Everyone loves a good story, build a good summary. I have read profiles that I think are amazing and I feel like I know the person. What did they do to make me feel that way? They wrote a summary that tells a story about them. The summary should not be written from the standpoint of wanting a role. It should tell the story of what about you is unique.

  • Tell a specific story of where you started, why you do what you do and what you are passionate about in your career. Another way to articulate your story is to share some of your successes. For example, you can add statements like “CEO known for doubling company revenues” or “CHRO who works with private equity backed companies to develop a human resources strategy that accelerates the growth of the company.”

  • Call to actions work when you are looking. In your summary you can end the story of you with a call to action. A perfect call to action would be “if you are seeking a solid petroleum engineer that has over 5 years of unconventional experience, please contact me.

Get testimonials on your profile

  • Get testimonials from anyone that you worked with who would be happy to put in a good word for you. There are two ways to do this, though one takes a bit longer. One way is to provide testimonials for those individuals you feel are great. This shows you like to provide testimonials and others may follow. The route that will take less time is to send a note asking for a testimonial. The way to do this is to open your profile, go to recommendations and click on the “ask to be recommended” link. You can send a note directly to a LinkedIn connection to ask for a recommendation. Recommendations make you stand up above others who have not been recommended.

  • It is important to link to people, but it is best to link to those that you know and or want to build rapport with. This is a great way to show you have a network and to keep in touch with your network. Think about the fact that most people at the top of a company have a solid network. This is your way to show that you too have a solid network of individuals you can reach out to do business with, in addition to learn and grow from them.

  • Make sure you have read your profile for potential grammar or spelling errors. It is also good if you have someone you trust to proofread your LinkedIn profile to get their thoughts on your profile. Ask them what jumps out at them, what they like an and what suggestions they may have.

Your LinkedIn profile is a part of you. It highlights who you are, your expertise, your skills, your sense of community and your network. As you grow in your career this is a perfect tool to help you meet your goals.

Prepare your resume

Resumes are tough to write and many times we wonder what does a resume really do? After all we are writing a document about ourselves. We want to show off our talents, but we don’t want to sound like we have a big ego. We want to show a potential employer that we are good at what we do, but it takes a lot of space to actually describe our work, especially if we worry that the person reading our resume doesn’t know what we do day to day.

Your resume is “your first impression” document that you will give to prospective employers. You want it to be professional, yet concise and easy to read. You want it to tell the story of why you will make the hiring manager’s life easier. How you will make an impact on the company. And “why you?”

It's also crucial that it highlights your skillset, work experience, and education. Include how long you have been working and highlight your most recent accomplishments. Make sure to include in your accomplishments what you were challenged with, what actions you took, and what results you had. Typically, the last three years of experience are what the most important to the hiring team. People often create resumes with generic information, so make sure your resume clearly outlines what skills you have and your accomplishments.

Overall a great resume is a marketing piece to market your skills to a potential employer, so you are invited in for an interview. Yes, this document shows how you may fit into the potential role, but it mostly introduces you to the hiring manager.

This document should do exactly what you need it to do, so don’t worry if it isn’t one page or follow a specific format. Think about it this way, if you were a hiring manager or human resources individual and you have over 100 people who have applied for a job. They are all standing in front of you with the same clothes on, same hair color, same height and same expression. How would you decide which one to ask to come in to an interview? It is the same with a resume. If everything is formatted the same, the same length and the same words it is very hard to differentiate who is the best candidate to invite in.

In your resume you need to get the reader intrigued. You will need to put your marketing hat on and if you don’t market here are ways to do this:

  • Focus on what the employer needs and not what you need… after all you know the employer needs you to do a great job.

  • Ask yourself “if I were hiring for this position, what do I think the perfect candidate would look like?”

  • Do I know anyone who works at the company and what have I heard is important to the company?

  • What would set a top performer apart from the rest in this job? If you are really stuck on this, look at profiles online of individuals in the role at the company and at other companies.

  • You can also look at other postings for the same position and see what others are looking for too. This will help you to see what the most needed skills are.

  • You can also call the company to ask them what they want, and I know most people will not do this, but the best way to do this is to call someone you know who works there. Ask them what they know or if they have a contact, they can refer you to.

This will set the stage for content that needs to be included in the resume to capture the hiring manager’s attention and create a resume to perform as it should; as a marketing/advertising document. As you write this document you should also consider how you would speak about your successes or takeaways on any skills you list. This is practice for the interview and an opportunity to double check that the resume is accurate.

Do your research on the company and its values

The skills, training, and experience you've acquired may be the primary areas a potential employer is looking at to identify strong candidates. However, there are many other factors to consider. Do your homework, take time to learn about the company and its values. Learning about a company’s values will allow you to see if you clearly align with the company and can succeed there.

Other questions to look for include... What was the company's last annual revenue? What are the company’s services and products? What is their mission? Who are their competitors? What kind of good or not so good press is out there (this is where they need help and you may be just the person to do that)? What kind of mentoring program does the company have? Who makes up the company, in other words who is the leadership? What does the team look like that you could potentially work with? These are just a few examples of the types of information you can find.

Prepare for interviews

Congrats, you’ve done your homework and now you are asked to go in for an interview! You have the right to expect a set of reasonable interview rules from the hiring manager, so you have an opportunity to explain to them what you believe is expected of you. In your answers, keep the focus on the job itself, the company, and the position.

Before a conversation with an employer, make sure to familiarize yourself with the company culture and ask questions around it, communicate how you would add to the culture and what values you bring. For example, if the company is one that strives for a creative environment, try to mention ways you align with the company creatively.

Be prepared to ask questions

Interviewers like to see that you are engaged and interested in what they are doing. Answer all interview questions thoughtfully. Making sure you are providing full answers to the questions. Don’t be afraid to ask additional questions if you need clarification to make sure you provide all the detail needed. Before going in do an inventory or build your toolbox regarding your background.

Also, make sure you envision what you want in a new role, really do an assessment of the value you will bring, the skill sets you will bring to the job, and make sure you are clear about how your education and experience that qualify you for the job. By taking some time to build your toolbox, you will be more confident in answering questions.

As much as you are trying to impress the interviewer, you should also make notes to keep you engaged and listening. When you get a moment and it is your turn to talk ask the interviewer relevant questions that show your interest in the company and lets the interviewer know you were actively listening.

Follow up with a thank-you email

Following up with a thank-you email shows that you're professional and that you appreciate the hiring manager's time. Remember that time is valuable, so make sure it is a quick note thanking the interviewer for taking the time out of their schedule to interview you. This also helps the interviewer know that you are very interested in the position.

It is okay to reiterate what you learned and share a quick sentence about how you feel you would provide value to the role and company.

And if you feel like a handwritten note is something you would like to send, go ahead and send an email, but write out a note and send it the day of the interview. Very few people send mail anymore and this could set you apart.

Good luck in your job search!


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