45 Job Search Tips From Experts

On the Hunt


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On the Hunt

On the Hunt

If getting a job were as simple as filling out an application and getting picked, there wouldn't be countless books, websites, and professionals dedicated to giving advice about job searching. Cheapism reached out to career experts for tips to help you get started networking, applying, and interviewing for your dream job. 

Related: 24 Job Hunting Tips for Workers Over 50

Figure Out What Kind Of Job You Want

Figure Out What Job You Want

This may sound obvious, but it's step one. "You need to be clear about what kind of job you're looking for," says career consultant Judi Lansky. She helps people identify their skills by doing exercises from a self-help book for job seekers by Richard Nelson Bolles called "What Color Is Your Parachute?"

Don't Limit Yourself
Aslan Alphan/istockphoto

Don't Limit Yourself

Your skills may match more jobs than you realize. Instead of searching for a specific job title, "what I like to do is have people do a broader search using some of the skill sets they'd like to use," says career and executive coach Daisy Swan. If you're a good writer, for example, use the search term "writing jobs."

Related: 35 Hobbies That Pay Off in Jobs

Get Internships

Get Internships

If you've still got a semester or two left in school, an internship could lead to a job — or at least give you experience and contacts for your job search. "It shows that you're interested, too, that you bothered to get an internship," Lansky says.

Build Your Professional Network In Advance
Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir/istockphoto

Network Before Applying

Some 85% of all jobs are filled through networking. "You want to connect with the people who have the types of jobs that you want," says Tamara M. Rasberry, human resources manager for a Washington, D.C., nonprofit. "Once you make that connection, they can pass you on to their HR person once they have availability."

FSU Career Center
FSU Career Center/YouTube

Your College Is a Resource for Life

 Most colleges offer their students career resources long after graduation. "The Career Center serves students for life," says Branden Grimmett, associate provost at Loyola Marymount University. "Once students graduate, they can come back and use the career center anytime." 

Your College Is A Resource Forever

Meet Fellow Alumni

A college degree may be a prerequisite for many jobs, but just as valuable are your fellow alumni. Be sure to go back for alumni events to network, particularly if you're looking for a job in the surrounding area. "LMU has almost 60,000 living alumni across the world," Grimmett says. "So the chances of one of those alums working at a company that you're interested in is typically pretty high, especially if you're within southern California."

Network Everywhere

Network Everywhere

Networking need not be limited to business and academic circles. Casual networking may be even more successful, and you should always be on the lookout for potential contacts. "I've known someone who just started up a random conversation with someone at the grocery store," Rasberry says. "It turns out that person needed to hire someone. Just be open and making connections with people, whether it's on social media, whether it's in your local community, wherever."

Visit Coworking Spaces

Visit Coworking Spaces

Renting a cubicle at a coworking space can put you in contact with other professionals in various industries. "By working around other people, people are able to share resources," says career coach Daisy Swan. "This is how people network together. There might be social activities or classes or meditation or even yoga at these spaces." 

Your Family Can Be Your Network

Your Family Is Part of Your Network

They say it's not what you know, it's who you know. "There's nothing wrong with social media and all that, but people who are in your life might actually be more available to help," says career consultant Judi Lansky. She suggests that job seekers "list 20 people that they know now. There may be people in their school, office, or whatever that have some connections. Especially if they're kids, a lot of times, their parents know people."

Be Personable

Be Personable

In his famous book "How to Win Friends and Influence People," Dale Carnegie says being interested in others is more effective than trying to be interesting. When you network, be genuinely interested in more than just people's jobs. "Don't go into meeting people for the sole purpose of trying to get a job, because then people end up feeling like you're just trying to use them," Rasberry says. "Make genuine connections with people. Don't just go and say, 'Hey, I need a job.' Have a genuine conversation."

Join Professional And Casual Groups

Join Professional and Social Groups

Find and join a professional association that caters to your line of work. Simply doing a Google search for "society/association of [your profession]" can turn up a local chapter. Industry groups also put on conferences worth attending, and professionals connect on social platforms, as well. "Clients of mine who are in the data science world meet and do different data problems together through Meetups," Swan says.

Expand Your Network

Networking Events Are a Catch-22

Events designated as "networking events" may not be as productive as they intend to be. "I think when people go to networking events, there's just this pressure that they tend to put on themselves, and everyone is going there for the sole purpose of talking about work," Rasberry says. "That can be off-putting sometimes. Have a genuine conversation with someone and work will eventually come up."

Don't Pay For Networking Events

Don't Pay for Networking Events

Don't rule out all official networking events, but if there's an entry fee, that's a red flag. "If you're charging $50, $80, $100 just to get in a room with people, you're still doing the exact same thing that a free networking event is doing," Rasberry says. "I would say be picky about where you spend your time. But if you see an event that definitely looks like something that would be beneficial to you, absolutely."

Networking Will Help Your Application
Geri Lavrov/Getty Images

Networking Will Help Your Application

Once you have a network, applying for jobs gets easier. "You're able to tailor your application based on what that alum or insider perspective can tell you that company is trying to solve in terms of problems or goals or strategies," LMU's Grimmett says. "Then you appear to the recruiter or hiring manager to know a lot more about the company than the average person."


Target Companies

After you've built your network, and perhaps before you start scanning job listings, think about where you'd like to work. "I ask [students] to identify 10 to 15 companies that they know they would love to work for," Grimmett says. "Then identify contacts within those companies that are in their network. If they're not in their network, then they need to find ways to develop that network, so they have someone on the ground at those companies."

Websites Are Your Last Resort

Job Sites Are a Last Resort

Some jobs are still filled through traditional job postings and applications, so it can't hurt to apply. Just understand the odds you're facing, Lansky says. "How many people are applying on the web? Probably a lot. So, how are you going to stand out?"

Know Where to Look
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Know Where to Look

First, see if your industry has its own job board. For nonprofit jobs, for example, there's Idealist.org. Then browse mainstream sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. Even Craigslist can help you find work in the gig economy, Swan says.

Handshake logo

Try Handshake (If Your School Subscribes)

If you went to one of the 700 universities that use Handshake, you can find job postings specifically for alumni. "That immediately eliminates a lot of the competition, because those employers, even though they might be posting elsewhere, have decided they want to recruit from that institution," Grimmett says.

Research Your Interviewer

Do Your Research

So, you've decided to apply for a job. You've got more resources at your disposal than just the job listing. "Look them up on LinkedIn, see who works there, see what types of things they're talking about," Rasberry says. "See if you know who the hiring manager is for the position that you want to take. Feel free to reach out to that person, or if you know someone who knows them."

Don't Rule Out Jobs Based On Postings

Echo the Job Description

Of course you skimmed the job description before you applied. But did you really read it? "Use the terminology in the job description every way you can in your cover letter and your resume," says human resources and vocational rehabilitation consultant Beth De Lima. This will help you seem like a good fit for the organization.

Keep Your Resume On Your Phone

Keep Your Resume on Your Phone

When you're networking, it helps to have your resume available at a moment's notice of a connection wants to see it. "I always say people should definitely have their resume downloaded on their phone, because you might need to send it to somebody really quickly," Rasberry says. "Always be prepared."

Make Multiple Resumes and Cover Letters

Create Multiple Resumes

Even in the same industry, every position has slightly different requirements. You'll want to tailor your resume and cover letter accordingly. I might seem expedient to use a form letter and resume if you're submitting dozens of applications, but it's best to take a more targeted approach, Grimmett says. "Both of those documents have to be tailored and rewritten for every job application."

I Have a Ton of Work Experience

Focus on Your Recent Experience

Limit your resume to the previous jobs that are relevant to your industry. "You want to show off the skill set that you have that goes along with the job description," Swan says. Rasberry points out that, later in your career, limiting your resume to your last 10 to 15 years of experience also could prevent potential employers from discounting you because of your age. "It shouldn't be done, but unfortunately it is done," she says. "You don't want that to be a deterrent to someone when they're looking through resumes."

Brighten Up Your Resume

Put Your Assets Up Top

Right under your name, at the top of your resume, list the assets you have that are relevant to the job you want. "Have a profile that highlights particular skills that you know are important to the job," Swan says. "That could be as basic as 'organized' and 'great work ethic' and 'team player.' And then, if they're looking for computer skills, highlight those."

Keep Your Email Address Simple

Keep Your Email Address Simple

Your nickname or the video game handle you used in college should probably be retired. Also, your email address should be easy to recall when prospective employers want to contact you. "Make sure your email address is basic; that it's not something that would have you not be taken seriously," Rasberry says. In other words: Just use your name.

Always Write A Cover Letter ...

Always Write a Cover Letter ...

Even if the listing asks for only your resume, write a cover letter anyway. "It's important to craft a customized cover letter that actually says why you're interested in that company and what it is you think that you have to offer," Swan says. "You don't have to regurgitate your entire resume, but to give a few highlights of why you think you'd be a good fit."

… And Personalize It

… and Customize It

Don't just send all the companies the same generic cover letter with their respective names in the subject line. Take the time to tell them why you want to work for them. "Every employer wants to know that you really want to work for them specifically, even though they might know in the back of their heads that that is not a reality," Grimmett says. "You have a lot more control over the way you're perceived by an employer if you do write that cover letter. That really hasn't changed. "

Don't Tell Them How to Feel About You

Don't Tell Them How to Feel About You

One mistake people make in their cover letters, or in interviews, is to be too presumptuous about how the company should perceive them. "They'll say, 'I believe I'm a perfect candidate for you,' or 'I believe I'm an excellent candidate for you,'" Swan says. "You don't know. Just say why you're interested in the company."

Follow Up With A Hard Copy

Follow Up With a Hard Copy

Even though most job postings and applications are handled electronically, you can also mail a hard copy. "If you're savvy and a good investigator, you can find so much information using LinkedIn about who you should send your information to," Swan says. "And that shows that you're really willing to do what you need to do to get the job you want."

Pounding the Pavement Still Works

Pounding the Pavement Still Works

If it's a local company, you can also just show up and ask to speak with somebody or deliver your resume and cover letter. "Not everybody's going to feel comfortable doing that, obviously," Swan says. "If you're somebody who has the confidence and present yourself in a professional and appropriate way for an organization, then you could try that. It could turn into a very quick interview with somebody who just happened to be near the front desk or something."

Pounding the Pavement Still Works

Scope Out the Scene Before the Interview

Once you've landed an interview, one way to prepare for it is by observing the office and employees. "Always check out the organization and dress a level above what you see coming out the front door," consultant Beth De Lima says. "So drive over there, watch, look, and see how people are dressed, and be a little bit more professional and more professionally dressed than the way they are dressed."

Practice the Interview

Practice for the Interview

You know the questions they're likely to ask, so you can rehearse. "A lot of them are pretty common," Lansky says. "'Tell me about yourself.' 'Why do you think you'd be good at this job?' 'What are your goals?' 'Where do you see yourself in five years?' If you're prepared for them, you can use them very much to your advantage. If you're not prepared for them, you often don't do a very good job." 

Telling Them About Yourself

Tell Them About Themselves

"Tell me about yourself" is so common that many experts have advice for answering it. "You should know how you're going to weave in the company culture, the core values, the mission, but also what the company does into your answer," Grimmett says. Consider what they're looking for, Swan says. "It's important to have thought through what you know you can bring to an organization and have examples of how you've done whatever work you've done."

What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses?

Consider Your Weaknesses Carefully

It's a common trick question: What are your biggest weaknesses? You want to be honest but not too revealing. For example, it could be a problem if you say you're not very organized and you're going for a data-entry position. "Think about something you may not be so great at but that you're working on," Swan says. 

Mirror Your Interviewer

Mirror the Interviewer

Mirroring is a very simple interpersonal skill that can make a great impression. "That means if your interviewer looks you in the eye, you look them in the eye," De Lima says. "If your interviewer is demonstrative and leans forward, you mirror that behavior. The more you mirror the behavior of the interviewer, the more comfortable they are with you and the more they feel like you are like them."

Be Concise in Interviews

Be Concise in Interviews

When giving an answer to a question, keep it short — ideally less than two minutes, Grimmett says. "People have limited attention spans." Also, don't be afraid of down time. "Silence always sounds longer to us than it does to the interviewer," he says. "Take a little bit of a beat after the end of the question." Use that time to make sure you're responding to the specific question that was asked.

Dress For Success
Miroslav Krupan/istockphoto

Dress for Success

Many workplaces are casual these days, so it's not always necessary to wear a suit and tie. Keep it professional, though. "For guys, a jacket, a button-down shirt, nice shoes," Swan says. "For women, a jacket, nice shoes, not too short of a skirt or dress. Nothing too tight, nothing too casual."

You Can Take Interviews From Anywhere
Chainarong Prasertthai/istockphoto

You Can Do an Interview From Anywhere

One advantage of modern technology is you don't have to be local to interview. There are plenty of options besides going to the office in person. "You can do Skype interviews," Rasberry says. "I think it opens up the world to more opportunities."

Treat Skype and Phone Interviews Like In-Person Interviews

Treat Phone Interviews Like In-Person Interviews

You may be on the phone or on Skype, but remember: This is a job interview. If you're on video, dress appropriately. "Even if it's a phone interview, put yourself somewhere where it's quiet, where you can focus and have a professional conversation," Rasberry says. "Even if they're not seeing you, they can hear your voice and your demeanor. Make sure you're somewhere where the background isn't disturbing."

Be On Time

Be on Time

If the first impression you make is that you can't show up to an interview on time, that's not going to inspire confidence that you'll show up to work on time. "Don't be late," Lansky says.

Always Negotiate

Always Negotiate

If you've received an offer, ask for more. Have a number in your head. "Get online and figure out what your job is worth in the state and town you're applying for, and negotiate," De Lima says. "Don't accept the first offer. Always ask for more, especially if you're a female, because females are not socialized to do that."

Follow Up

Follow Up

Once you've submitted your application and/or had an interview, keep in touch. "As soon as you submit the application, make sure it was received if you don't get that confirmation," Grimmett says. If you haven't heard back after a couple of weeks about where they are in the process, reach out and ask for an update.

Don't Wait Around

Don't Wait Around

If a company keeps you waiting to hear back, it may be a lost cause. "Have respect for your own boundaries," Rasberry says. "Know, once you apply, especially if you've gone in for an interview, it shouldn't take anyone a month to get back to you. I feel like, if that happens, that's a place you probably don't want to work."

Career Coaches Can Help

A Career Coach Can Help

If you're looking for work, you may not have a lot of money to spend, but career coaching can be a good investment in long-term job skills. "You'll learn how to do a good job search for the rest of your life," Swan says. "Some people are more introverted, and they're not going to be so comfortable doing networking. We'll figure out a way for them to do that so it's more genuine to who they are." Professional advice can be especially helpful if you're starting from scratch. "A lot of people who come to me are unsure about what they want to do, so I can help them figure that out," Lansky says. "I help people with resumes and cover letters. I coach them how to network." 


Companies Should Network Too

Networking isn't just for job seekers. Companies need to build potential talent pools too. "One thing I always think is good is when organizations keep a pipeline or keep in touch with people who have worked there before but left," Rasberry says. "Keep in touch with those people, and if you have a job opening, reach out to those people. They may have someone to recommend."