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In my previous entry (“Why Successful Job Searches Are Like Successful Marketing Campaigns”) I discussed how a successful job search campaign is like a successful marketing campaign. In each success depends on:
- Offering the customer (the potential employer in the case of your job search) something of value (your expertise and experience).
- Marketing materials (your resume, cover letter and portfolio) that create interest in what you have to offer.
- Identifying who needs your expertise.
- Making successful contact with potential employers.
- Making the sale through successful interviews.
A successful job search that contains these elements usually is going to have 5 main stages. These are:
- Stage 1: Taking Stock of What You Have to Offer and Setting Goals for Your Search
- Stage 2: Finding Opportunities
- Stage 3: Handling Inquiries
- Stage 4: Selling Yourself through Successful Interviews
- Stage 5: Follow-up
The first 2 stages are mostly what you would think of as marketing—creating an offering and generating interest from potential employers.
The last 3 stages are selling. The potential employer is interested and contacts you. Now you have to convince them to buy (hire you).
So, let’s look briefly at what’s included in each stage of the process.
Stage 1: Taking Stock of What You Have to Offer and Setting Goals for Your Search.
This is where you do some deep thinking and analysis about what you want to end up with as a result of your job search, and what you have to offer potential employers in terms of your expertise.
Principal Activities include:
- Setting Goals for Your Search. Questions to consider include:
– What Kind of Job Do You Want? For example, if you just lost your job do you want the same kind of job that you just had, or do you want to try a new career in something else?
– How soon do you need something?
– Does it need to be full time? Could it be contract through an employment agency?
– Where does it need to be? Do you want to relocate? How far are you willing to commute? Do you want to work from home?
- Analyzing each of your previous jobs to identify what you were responsible for, the accomplishments you achieved and the type of expertise you used.
- Developing a one or two sentence summary of the type of job you’re looking for, your expertise and how someone can use it.
- Preparing your resume, cover letter and samples of your work you can show potential employers.
- Requesting people to act as your references and getting letters of reference from them.
What many job searchers don’t realize—especially if you’re new to the process—is how critical this stage is, and why it’s so important to take the time to do it thoroughly. The reason is simple—it builds the foundation for the next several stages. The opportunities you’re going to look for in Stage 2 stem from how you answered the questions in this stage. The answers you give in stages 3 and 4 when an employer contacts or interviews you are going to be greatly influenced by what you thought about when you analyzed what you had to offer potential employers in terms of your expertise.
Stage 2: Finding Opportunities
During this stage you’re identifying potential employers to contact by doing things such as:
- Researching on line career sites and replying to applicable job postings.
- Making a list of employers where you’d like to work that could use your type of expertise.
- Contacting Employment Agencies Directly to let them know of your availability.
- Checking job ads in newspapers, magazines, trade journals, etc.
- Researching individual company career pages on their web site.
- Developing a network of people to let them know what you’re looking for and to have them help you get in contact with people who might want to hire you.
- Attending job/career fairs.
- Participating in a job search club.
Stage 3: Handling Inquiries
This is when you get a response from an interested employer. Often it will catch you off guard in the form or an unexpected phone call. Usually it consists of preliminary screening questions from the recruiter aimed at determining if you seem to fit what they’re looking for at first blush. Factors they’ll ask about are:
- How much money do you expect if you accept the job?
- Have you used the skills and talents they’re looking for in your previous jobs or experiences, and can you tell them briefly how?
- Questions aimed at determining if you sound like you’re a good candidate for a more in-depth interview with the hiring manager.
Stage 4: Selling Yourself through Successful Interviews
This is when your hard selling begins. The employer is trying to determine how well you fit the picture in their mind of the ideal person they have for the job. If someone left the job, you’re competing against them as well in the employer’s mind. If the person did well, the employer is trying to find someone like them. If not, the employer is hoping to avoid the last mistake they made in hiring for the position.
Depending on the company, you may have several interviews. The first usually is aimed at determining how well you seem to fit the criteria of the ideal candidate for the job. Subsequent interviews may be somewhat of a repeat of the first round but with more senior level people, or with additional members of the team to get their feel of how well you fit in.
Interviews often occur in various phases. First you’ll often get an opening question to get conversation started such as “Tell Me About Yourself”.
Other questions may follow to understand your work history and how you approach situations important to the interviewer. Samples of these types of questions from various experts include:
- Why do you want to change jobs?
- What are your qualifications for this position?
- How do you plan for new projects?
- What makes you successful?
- What makes a good team player?
- What are you greatest strengths?
- What are your development needs?
Many interviews are also based on the assumption that the best way to predict how well a person is going to be able to do the job is based on how they’ve demonstrated using the needed skills and abilities in the past. Sample questions of this type might include:
- Tell me about a difficult problem in your last job and how you solved it.
- What was your biggest accomplishment in your last job?
- Describe a time when you used XXXX skill.
As much as possible you want to frame your answer to these questions in the following format:
- The situation you faced
- The actions you took.
- The results you achieved.
You can find numerous sites on the internet and books that offer advice on how to handle all of these types of questions. Sites you might try include:
- Monster.com (Go to Advice Section)
- Net-temps.com (See Career Tools-Career Advice Section)
For books, either visit your local bookstore, or try an online search on Amazon.com. Try using “interview questions and answers” as your search criteria.
To get ready for these types of questions, try making a list of the questions, the expert’s advice on how to answer them, and an answer that fits your experience. Consider keeping this list and your responses in a word processing document that you can refer to easily.
In addition to developing responses to potential questions, you should:
- Research the Company to learn about its products/services, customer/client base, market challenges, etc.
- Talk with anyone you know at the Company/Organization that can fill you in on the type of interview process the Company uses, what they look for during interviews, etc.
- Think of questions to ask the interviewer that will demonstrate you’ve done your homework and are really interested in the job. Questions like:
– What are the major challenges your department is facing and how does this job impact the ability to meet them?
– What in your mind does it take to be successful in this job?
– What projects would I be working on if I take this job?
– Now that we’ve discussed the skills I have, how do you think you could best use them?
Stage 5: Follow-up.
After each interview you should make sure to send a note to the hiring manager and/or the Human Resource contact who interviewed you thanking them for the interview. Make sure that you let them know that you’re interested in the job and that you look forward to working with them in the future if hired.