Job Search Basics


job search basicsAn employer wants to hire someone who can do the job required of them (and more), culturally meshes with the organization, and will stay in the position for a long time.

So, as a job seeker, you need to show that: you have the strengths and talents to excel in the position; your personality style and personal values fit with the organization; and you are personally motivated by the work you are expected to do and the product the organization produces.

Companies have preferred ways to fill an open position.  In descending order of preference, these are:

  • Hire from within (full-time or part-time, past intern)
  • Hire based on proof of ability– visible track record of success, publications, etc
  • Hire through an interpersonal network – someone trusted by a business colleague
  • Hiring someone through an agency / trusted institution / on-campus recruiting
  • Online advertising
  • Resume drop service

So the best way to get an interview is to speak with someone who is in the position to hire you. The next best option is to speak with someone who knows the person who could hire you.

In general, your best approaches to landing that position are:

  • Doing a project for free that doesn’t require any work on the company’s part
  • Informational Interviewing
  • Networking
  • Career Services jobs
  • Cover letters to other jobs
  • Resume postings

The different tools of the job search and is included below:

What is an informational interview?
A conversation (in person or by phone) to find out whether you would like a position and organization prior to actually trying to get the job. Even though you aren’t getting interviewed for a position and shouldn’t ask for a job, the person you are speaking with is still evaluating your potential as an employee.

To prepare for this interview, you want to not only polish up your answers to interview questions, but also have a list of questions that you want answered. These questions should help you identify whether you would want a job in this type of organization and what strategies you should use when applying. To learn about a job, ask questions about what motivates the people doing this work, strengths of people in the business, what are the low points, the kind of challenges / problems they are asked to face.

While the person you are speaking with may not have a job available, he or she likely knows someone who does. Ask for referrals to people in their network.

What is networking?
Having a conversation with anyone who could potentially have a personal connection to the job / business you are interested in getting involved with. You never know who could have a lead. The key is to know what you are looking for, to articulate your goals to the people who you are speaking with and to informally provide evidence for your case. The purpose of networking is to get invited to a follow up conversation (or series of conversations) which will lead to a hiring interview.

What is using your career office?
In addition to job postings on its website and on-campus recruiting opportunities, your career office has some other great resources. Two are a list of companies who have hired from your school before and a list of alumni that you can reach out to, with whom the career office can provide an introduction. The key is to know specifically what you are looking for and what you want. Through your career office, you are hoping to find opportunities to have informational interviews / less formal conversations with people within the career office’s network.

What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a one page, usually 5 paragraph document, that articulates how your strengths and experience. It indicates you will do well in the specific job description to which you are responding. Articulate your experiences’ connections to the job offered. The purpose of a cover letter is to get invited for a hiring interview.

What is a resume?
A resume is a one page bullet-ed list of items that highlights your strengths and potential benefits by showing your past accomplishments and achievements. The more specific and tangible outcomes you can provide, the more credible you will appear. The purpose of a resume is to provide information about who you are. Usually, a resume alone is not sufficient to get an interview, but it’s still important to your success.

What is a hiring interview?
A hiring interview is your opportunity to get the position which you have already learned will be a good fit for you. You are there to tell the interviewer why you are a good fit for the position that is offered. You need to articulate what are the types of challenges you like to undertake, what you uniquely bring to an employer (backed up by specific stories), and why you like the organization. You should also show that you have researched the organization and that your motivations align with that of the job and the organization.

Best of luck with the job search.