7 secrets for a smarter job search

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Posts here on The Work Buzz are always geared toward you, the job seeker. We know that job seeking is not only tough but also mysterious. You work your hardest to get noticed, but sometimes you never hear back from employers. You never know what they’re thinking. It feels very one-sided.  That’s why we have today’s guest post from Kathryn Ullrich, an executive recruiter and author of “Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success.” She’s willing to divulge what’s going on in a recruiter’s mind so that you know what you’re dealing with.

Confessions of an Executive Recruiter
By Kathryn Ullrich

After three years of economic aches and pains, the employment outlook by companies in the United States has improved to a 12-year high, according to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics. If you are an executive or mid-level professional who is looking, or plans to look, for a new job in 2011, that can be pretty encouraging news. But are you really ready for a job search? From a seasoned suffer-no-fools executive recruiter, here are seven secrets to help fire up your search and fuel your success:

1. Recruiters spend 10 seconds “reading” your résumé
Odds are, you can lose up to a third of the words on your resume without compromising the content. So put your résumé on a word diet and eliminate the bloat. Remove extraneous words and phrases and generic mom-and-apple-pie references (“strong team player”) to bring your experience to the forefront. Additionally, bring your résumé alive by branding yourself from beginning to end and by using active verbs to describe accomplishments relevant to your target job.

2. Recruiters look for specialists, not generalists
Today, companies want specialists who have done the job before. Develop a personal brand, distinguish your skills and strengths, and design your job search around industries or functions targeted to your background. For inspiration, study real-life job specifications online. Recently, for instance, a well-known software company was seeking a seasoned marketer “skilled in developing online video for B2B marketing.” Translation: specialize!

3. Recruiters search for candidates who know where they’re going
Have a long-term career strategy or, at the very least, a strong sense for where you’re headed. Ask yourself, “Where do I see myself in five to 10 to 15 years?” Then figure out what steps you need to take to get there. Having a clear, concise understanding of your career path can demonstrate your leadership maturity to potential employers.

4. Recruiters care about how you present as much as what you present
Your communication skills can make — or break — your job search. For every situation, from interviews to networking events, know your key points in advance and be crisp and organized in communicating them. Practice your responses to common interview questions, determining the “just right” length to illustrate your strengths and experience, and using interesting, impactful examples as much as possible.

5. Recruiters anticipate well-crafted exit statements
Be well-versed in discussing the movement on your résumé. If you’ve jumped around a lot, prepare your “exit statement” for every move. Also, if you have gaps between jobs, have an explanation for what you did during that time.

6. Recruiters have finely tuned “BS” detectors
Be open, honest, and authentic. If you aren’t, you won’t fool recruiters or employers, at least not for long. They will sense something isn’t adding up and will get to the bottom of it. If you’ve had a bump or two along the road, personally or professionally, be upfront about them. Also, focus on the facts of any situation, not the emotions surrounding it.

7. Recruiters “watch, look, and listen” on social media
Nearly all employers look at your profile online: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social-media Web sites. Leverage that opportunity and have your online presence tell a story. Sure, you watch the appropriateness of what you post online, but take it a step further: tell your story and tout your brand.

Kathryn Ullrich is a Silicon Valley-based executive search consultant and author of the award-winning book “Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success” (Silicon Valley Press, 2010, $19.95). She also leads Alumni Career Services at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Contact her at kathrynu@ullrichassociates.com.

  1. “Develop a personal brand?”
    If you’re a celebrity selling a new perfume, you probably aren’t looking for a job; otherwise, cogs in the corporate machine don’t need a brand.

    • I disagree. You do need a brand which represents who you are. Maybe it is not as large as Lebron James’s brand, but everyone needs a brand that makes him/her marketable for employers to be interested in.

  2. Hi. What if I have no online presence? Is that a negative now? I’m one of the very few people who is determined to stay off the “social media” grid because personally, I think it’s a bit too much information for employers…

    • Dee –

      I follow a personal rule about facebook specifically – never post something that you would say aloud in a crowded room. Can’t really get into trouble that way. My pics are inocuous. My statuses are harmless. I never vent personal issues online. Try that. Then not only will you have an online presence, but it won’t harm you.


      • Dee -

        I think it is best to stay on social networks which cater specifically for career networking. I am only on Linkedin and I am also a student member of ACFE. Regardless of what you put on your facebook page, you can’t really censor what your friends put on there. While your page maybe clean, if your employer searches through your friend’s pages and finds something about you, it would not be good.

    • You can also separate your social media site use. Use an alias on Facebook and your real name on LinkedIn. And on LinkedIn always be serious. The slightest break in “character” can form a foothold for the employer’s or recruiter’s myriad prejudices. They already have your resume, so they’re only browsing those sites to find reasons to dump you as a candidate.

  3. What if your the kind of person that doen’t have for facebook twitter, and other such sites. What if your busy with more important things to bother with all that.

  4. What if you are to busy in your personal and proffecional life that you just can’t be bothered with these silly web sites. what does that say about a person

  5. This very good article presents accurate information and should be heeded. I have experience in the current job market and urge you to differentiate yourself from other large numbers of candidates vying for the same job. This includes presenting an accomplishment oriented resume that uses quantitative descriptions of your accomplishments. All important information showing the employer why you are the best person for the job must appear in the first third of the resume. Know exactly what job you are seeking and where/ how you expect to be in the next five years. Be prepared to deliver a strong 30 second “Elevator Speech” that succinctly tells who you are(your brand) and what you bring to the employer for the specific job. Research the company to discover their needs. Know how to answer behavioral interview questions in a positive way, using specific examples of situations encountered in the past that illustrate how you satisfy what the company requires for the job. Maintain your social profile in a professional manner, as recruiters do look at these websites for candidates and make decisions about you from your social websites.

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