I often talk to job seekers who spend 99% of their job seeking time applying to positions online. They are often frustrated at the lack of responses and the endless amount of time that can be spent reviewing job boards, creating profiles and even paying for job leads.
I always counsel people on trying to avoid the trap of just reacting to job postings. Instead, I encourage a mix that I feel is more effective and rewarding. Definitely check out job boards – especially MiTalent.org – but try to limit this to 10% of the time that you spend on your job search. Also get out and go to networking events – this should be another 10% of your portfolio. However the majority of your time – I use 80% as a guideline – should be spent proactively researching and building contacts at your target companies.
It can be difficult to pull yourself away from applying to actual jobs and instead planting seeds for jobs that may or may not come to be. However, the highest sources of talent leads are through networking and referrals, not job boards. Often, by the time a position is posted, the hiring manager already has a candidate in mind. Or, employee referrals will be the resumes that get the strongest consideration. By building relationships ahead of an opening being posted, and leveraging your network to become an employee referral after the job is posted, you will increase your chance of being considered for a position at a company that you have already determined will be a good long term fit for you.
Cover letters can make a difference!
I have been at career panels and occasionally someone will say to “skip the cover letter, recruiters only read the resumes.” I always cringe when I hear that, because there have been times that I have interviewed people solely on their cover letters.
The cover letter, or “cover email” if you are sending someone an email with an attached resume, should be customized to the employer and the job title. It should concisely make a case on why you are a great fit for the job, and should entice the hiring manager to want to read more. Cover letters that articulate the top 3-5 desired skills, and how you positively match up with those requirements are a great way to set yourself apart. You are also making it easier on the recruiter to figure out how you match up to the job. And, you demonstrate strong communication skills which are critical to almost every job.
Resume advice … do what feels right
If you ask 10 people what format of resume to use, you will get 10 different answers. Every recruiter has a favorite type of resume and looks for different things. What you choose should be a matter of what you feel best positions your strengths.
I do recommend that sticking to two pages (an extra few pages for publications is fine if you are an academic) is a good idea, and having a summary at the beginning that concisely summarizes your skills and interests and hints at the type of job you are looking for is my own preference.
Be sure to spell check and have someone else proof read the resume. If an employer sees a mistake on such an important document, there will be questions about your thoroughness and attention to detail.