Job Search 101 Guide
Develop a winning resume and cover letter. Prepare to nail the interview.
This Job Search Guide provides concise, practical information on how to develop a winning resume and cover letter, and includes samples to use as guides.
In addition to providing information about resumes and cover letters, the guide includes information to help you create a reference list, prepare for an interview, write a thank you letter following an interview, work with executive recruiters, and track your job search progress.
We hope you find this guidebook to be of help to you. Good luck in your job search!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Creating an Effective Resume
What are some tips for creating an effective resume?
The thought of writing a resume intimidates almost everyone. It’s difficult to know where to start or what to include. It can seem like an insurmountable task. Here are 15 tips to help you not only tackle the task, but also write a winning resume:
1. Determine your job search objective prior to writing the resume. Once you have determined your objective, you can structure the content of your resume around that objective. Think of your objective as the bull’s-eye to focus your resume on hitting. If you write your resume without having a clear objective in mind, it will likely come across as unfocused to those that read it. Take the time before you start your resume to form a clear objective.
2. Think of your resume as a marketing tool. Think of yourself as a product, potential employers as your customers, and your resume as a brochure about you. Market yourself through your resume. What are your features and benefits? What makes you unique? Make sure to convey this information in your resume.
3. Use your resume to obtain an interview, not a job. You don’t need to go into detail about every accomplishment. Strive to be clear and concise. The purpose of your resume is to generate enough interest in you to have an employer contact you for an interview. Use the interview to provide a more detailed explanation of your accomplishments and to land a job offer.
4. Use bulleted sentences. In the body of your resume, use bullets with short sentences rather than lengthy paragraphs. Resumes are read quickly. This bulleted sentence format makes it easier for employers to quickly scan your resume and absorb it.
5. Use action words. Action words cause your resume to pop. To add life to your resume, use bulleted sentences that begin with action words like “prepared,” “developed,” “monitored,” and “presented.”
6. Use #s, $s and %s. Numbers, dollars, and percentages stand out in the body of a resume. Use them. Here are two examples:
- Managed a department of 10 with a budget of $1,000,000.
- Increased sales by 25% in a 15-state territory.
7. Lead with your strengths. Since resumes are typically reviewed in 30 seconds, take the time to determine which bullets most strongly support your job search objective. Put those strong points first, where they are more apt to be read.
8. Play Match Game. Review want ads for positions that interest you. Use the key words listed in these ads to match them to bullets in your resume. If you have missed any key words, add them to your resume.
9. Use buzzwords. If there are terms that show your competence in a particular field, use them in your resume. For marketing people, use “competitive analysis.” For accounting types, use “reconciled accounts.”
10. Accent the positive. Leave off negatives and irrelevant points. If you feel your date of graduation will subject you to age discrimination, leave the date off your resume. If you do some duties in your current job that don’t support your job search objective, leave them off your resume. Focus on the duties that do support your objective. Leave off irrelevant personal information like your height and weight.
11. Show what you know. Rather than going in depth in one area, use your resume to highlight your breadth of knowledge. Use an interview to provide more detail.
12. Show who you know. If you have reported to someone important, such as a vice president or department manager, say so in your resume. Having reported to someone important causes the reader to infer that you are important.
13. Construct your resume to read easily. Leave white space. Use a font size no smaller than 10 point. Limit the length of your resume to 1-2 pages. Remember, resumes are reviewed quickly. Help the reader to scan your resume efficiently and effectively.
14. Have someone else review your resume. Since you are so close to your situation, it can be difficult for you to hit all your high points and clearly convey all your accomplishments. Have someone review your job search objective, your resume, and listings of positions that interest you. Encourage them to ask questions. Their questions can help you to discover items you inadvertently left off your resume. Revise your resume to include these items. Their questions can also point to items on your resume that are confusing to the reader. Clarify your resume based on this input.
15. Submit your resume to potential employers. Have the courage to submit your resume. Think of it as a game where your odds of winning increase with every resume you submit. Use a three-tiered approach.
Apply for some jobs that appear to be beneath you. Perhaps they will turn out to be more than they appeared to be once you interview for them. Or perhaps once you have your foot in the door you can learn of other opportunities. Apply for jobs that seem to be just at your level. You will get interviews for some of those jobs. See how each job stacks up. Try for some jobs that seem like a stretch. That’s how you grow—by taking risks. Don’t rule yourself out. Trust the process.
Can I see an example of an effective resume?
123 Any Street
Any City, Any State 12345
To obtain a position as a Distribution Manager that utilizes my 7 years of distribution and logistics management experience, my experience founding and managing a small business, and my bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Experience with successfully managing all aspects of a large distribution center including implementing automated distribution systems; selecting, managing and training staff; developing and managing the departmental budget; establishing and monitoring productivity goals; and leading cross-functional teams on key projects. Have designed the layout, organization, processes, and procedures for a distribution facility. Proven leadership skills gained from managing a large distribution center as well as founding and managing a multi-million dollar business.
General Manager, Distribution
ABC Companies, Any City, Any State, 2009 – 2019.
• Reporting to the Executive Vice President of Operations, responsible for managing all aspects of operations for a 270,000 SF distribution center with a 94-person staff and a $3.4 million budget.
• Processed 8 million units annually while managing 5,700 SKUs to supply appropriate product to over 500 different locations during off-peak times and 750 locations during peak times.
• Developed operating budget for Distribution Center based on detailed forecasts and managed Distribution Center to operate effectively within the operating budget.
• Reduced Distribution Center expenses by more than $1.5 million, a 30% reduction, over a 2-year period while maintaining productivity levels, service quality, and inventory accuracy.
• Designed an employee productivity improvement incentive program that resulted in a 28% increase in productivity.
• Developed a seasonal staffing program that eliminated the need for temporary labor resulting in a $500,000 savings.
• Directed the successful start-up of a new distribution facility achieving within the first quarter of operation a distribution volume that exceeded plan by over 200%.
• Selected and implemented a warehouse management software system, trained users, and developed procedures to integrate the computerized system.
• Led cross-functional team integrating the distribution system with a new database merchandising system.
• Redesigned receiving and picking operations to incorporate an automated system completing the project on time and under budget.
Founder and President
XYZ, Inc., Any City, Any State, 2002 – 2009.
• Founded and led a 14-employee company generating a peak of $4.7 million in annual sales.
• Responsible for residential construction projects for over 150 new single-family homes.
• Managed the complete project including bidding, design, scheduling, purchasing, subcontracting, and customer service.
• Scheduled subcontractor activities and oversaw multiple subcontractors to ensure construction projects were completed on time and within budget.
• Developed, marketed and sold residential real estate by establishing affiliations with CDE Group, A-1Bank, Top Realty, and Best Realty.
Any University, Any City, Any State
Bachelor of Arts, Business Administration
DMS, MS Office, Spreadsheet Software, ORACLE
World Class Logistics, CLM Annual Conference
Supply Chain Management, CLM Annual Conference
Member, Council of Logistics Management
What process should I follow to customize my resume to a particular job posting?
According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 63% of HR managers will pay more attention to a resume that is tailored to the open position. Many job seekers are unaware of the importance of resume tweaking.
The following infographic teaches you how to customize your resume to the opportunities you seek.
Writing Your Cover Letter
Should I include a cover letter when I apply for a position?
Yes. Including a cover letter with your resume is important for three reasons:
1. To demonstrate that you understand the hiring process and can convey a professional image.
2. To generate enough interest in you to cause an employer to take time to read your more detailed resume.
3. To highlight a key qualification or accomplishment that you possess which was called out in the requirements for the position you are seeking. By highlighting how you meet an employer’s requirements in your cover letter, you immediately begin to establish yourself as a qualified candidate for the job.
What should I include in my cover letter?
Here is a recommended format for your cover letter:
- In the 1st paragraph, indicate the job you are applying for and where you saw the opportunity
- In the 2nd paragraph, briefly show you are qualified for the position by mentioning relevant work experience
- Determine what is relevant by reviewing the requirements for the position your are seeking and highlighting the requirements you meet
- In the 3rd paragraph, briefly show that you are further qualified for the position, mentioning relevant educational background
- Determine what is relevant by reviewing the educational requirements for the position you are seeking and highlighting those that you meet
- Another alternative would be to present the information in paragraphs two and three in a bulleted format instead
- In the 4th paragraph, briefly talk about your strengths as a person, such as your ability to work autonomously, your attention to detail, or any personal strengths that set you apart from others
- In the final paragraph, mention that your resume is enclosed or attached and that it will provide further details regarding your background
- Close with a statement about how you look forward to hearing from the potential employer soon
- Include your signature with your name typed below it
- In a cover letter to an executive recruiter or headhunter, you should also include your job titles of interest, your desired salary range, and your geographic locations of interest
Can I see a sample of a cover letter sent to an employer in response to a job posting?
1234 Main Street, Apt. A
Any City, CA 12345
July 7, 2011
Attn: (If to a specific person or department)
Employer City, State Zip Code
To Whom It May Concern:
Please consider me an applicant for the [Insert Job Title Here] position you recently posted on [Insert Location of Job Posting Here]. I believe I have the proper qualifications for the job.
I am an experienced pre-sales systems engineer with a track record of success in preparing and conducting software sales demonstrations. I am skilled in serving as the technical point of contact for major accounts, providing onsite technical support as well as assisting customers by telephone, and presenting to both technical audiences and C-level executives. In addition to my experience as a pre-sales system engineer, I have extensive knowledge of Enterprise Management, including servers, application, and databases performance.
I enjoy a challenge, whether it involves developing training materials, conducting product training, assisting with product testing and implementation, or training less experienced internal staff.
The skills I’ve gained are the ability to learn new software applications quickly and to a level of detail that allows me to serve in a troubleshooting or training role, the ability to adapt my communication style to fit the audience’s level of knowledge and areas of interest, and the ability to convey complex information in a manner that others can understand.
My resume is attached. It will provide you with further details regarding my background. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Beginning Your Job Search
How long will my job search take?
There is no formula to predict how long your job search will take. Many different factors will contribute to the length of your job search.
Factors that could either shorten or lengthen your job search, depending on current market trends, include:
- The overall job market itself
- Your desired industry
- Your desired functional area
- Factors that would likely lengthen your job search include:
- Changing your career field
- Changing your industry
- Being at a salary level above the market rate for your target position
- Seeking a higher-level position with limited job openings such as director-level positions
- Re-entering the workforce after a lengthy absence
- Having a work history of frequent job changes
- Being a mature worker
- Lacking the degree typically required for a desired position
- Hesitating to apply for positions
- Number of applications per position
To give you a ballpark idea of how long your job search will take, the average length of unemployment as of January 2019 is 20.1 weeks for those 20 years and over, with the average length of unemployment increasing to 23.7 weeks for those 55 to 64 years (source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Many states require unemployed workers to first use their severance weeks before being eligible for receiving unemployment, which means the average time a job seeker is unemployed is actually longer than the time they receive unemployment.
Our intention in providing you with these statistics isn’t to discourage you, but rather to help you recognize upfront that you need to be as proactive as possible in your job search.
How did job seekers find their last job?
One of the things Quest emphasizes to job seekers is that they must expand their approach to landing desired positions. A mountain of statistics are available which show that employers and recruiters use a variety of methods to fill open positions—not just one thing.
The following infographic illustrates for you how important it is to take a comprehensive approach to your job search.
What does this mean for you and your job search?
The main point to take away from the research is that you don’t want to rely exclusively on any one method to find your next job. Your best approach is to initially cover all your bases, and then adjust the time you spend with each method based on your success with that particular method.
How can I maximize the number of quality job opportunities that I can target in my job search?
Here is an action plan to help you maximize the number of job opportunities you can target in your job search:
- Post your resume to the ‘Big 3’ in job search: Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. Also post your resume to CareerBuilder.com, the site powering over 90% of the Fortune 500 company job boards.
- Post your resume to your college or university’s alumni job search site.
- Post your resume on relevant industry and professional association websites, using sources like CareerOneStop to identify appropriate associations.
- Utilize your local newspaper’s website to locate job opportunities.
- Consider pursuing job opportunities with the federal government.
- Consider pursuing nonprofit job opportunities.
- Use Craigslist.org to locate job opportunities with smaller companies that will use this resource due to its affordability.
- Use Google to identify niche job sites focused on your functional area or industry.
- Work with executive recruiters.
- Identify companies to target in your job search, utilizing sources like Hoover’s to build a list of target companies.
- Network with friends, family, neighbors, former coworkers, industry contacts, and vendors to identify job opportunities.
Attend industry and professional association meetings to network.
How do I best utilize Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, and other job posting sites in my job search?
- Create ‘job alerts’ to have job postings emailed to you from each job site.
- Check for new job postings on each site at least weekly and apply to appropriate positions.
- Log into each site at least weekly to open and re-save your resume so it continues to show up as ‘newest’ when employers search for matching resumes that they sort from newest to oldest.
How do I best utilize LinkedIn in my job search?
Recruiters are relying more and more on LinkedIn to source job candidates. To find these candidates, they perform keyword searches within LinkedIn. To improve your chances of being found by recruiters on LinkedIn, consider adding the information in the Professional Summary section of your resume to your LinkedIn Profile and adding some bullets to your individual positions. Also add an appropriate string of keywords to the Specialties section of LinkedIn. Use job postings for your target position to help you determine the appropriate keywords.
Finally, don’t forget to use LinkedIn to find job opportunities by clicking on the Jobs tab on LinkedIn and performing keyword searches. With the advanced search feature, you can limit the job postings by various criteria including location, job title, and the date the job was posted to LinkedIn.
Expand your network exponentially
Set up an account on LinkedIn if you haven’t already done so or expand your network if you have an established account with LinkedIn.
In today’s job market, it’s likely that the job openings you will be applying for will have 200-300 applications. Even with a strong resume and extensive experience, the odds are stacked against you being one of the 5-7 people out of 300 applicants that are selected for an interview.
The purpose of building your network on LinkedIn is to give you an edge over your competition by building a large enough network where someone you know (called a first-tier or 1st-level connection within LinkedIn) or someone they know (2nd-level connection to you) is employed at the company with the job opening you are interested in.
Through LinkedIn, you can ask your 1st-level connection to present your resume directly to the hiring manager. You can also ask your 1st connection to make an introduction for you to their 1st-level connection at a target company. This friend-of-a-friend connection may be willing to present your resume to the hiring manager after talking with you to learn more about you and your experience. So they are motivated to help you land the job, your connection within your target company will often receive a referral fee from their employer if you are hired for the position.
Your goal should be to build your network of 1st-level connections to have the reach you need to properly leverage LinkedIn in your job search. Strive to expand your network beyond connections to your former coworkers at your most recent employer. In the example below, the individual has 52 first-level connections, which result in linking them to 12,100+ second-level or friend-of-friend connections.
Help employers and recruiters find you on LinkedIn
- First, you’ll want to make sure your LinkedIn Profile is public so it can be seen and found
- Next, you’ll want to update your Career Interests on LinkedIn
The information given below is taken directly from the LinkedIn website. If you need help beyond the information they’ve provided below, you’ll need to contact their customer service group directly.
Making Your Public Profile Visible
Your public profile will be visible to people who aren’t members, who aren’t signed in to LinkedIn, or those who haven’t linked their LinkedIn account to their account on other approved services.
When displaying your public profile, you can either set limits on how much of your profile information is displayed by customizing your public profile settings or show your public profile.
To show or change your public profile:
1. Click the Me icon at the top of your LinkedIn homepage.
2. Click View profile.
3. On your profile page, click Edit public profile & URL on the right rail.
4. Under the Edit Visibility section in the right rail, check or uncheck the boxes to select which sections you’d like to display or hide. Note: Your basic information displays by default.
Your changes will be updated and saved automatically, however search engines can take some time to detect changes and refresh. LinkedIn doesn’t control that refresh process.
Updating Your Career Interests on LinkedIn
Updating your career interests on LinkedIn helps us customize the positions that are surfaced to you through the Jobs You May Be Interested In Feature.
To update your career interests:
1. Click the Me icon at the top of your LinkedIn homepage and click View profile under your name.
2. In the Your Dashboard section of your profile, click Career interests.
3. You can customize the following preferences:
- Shared career interest with recruiters
- How actively are you looking for a job
- How soon would you like to move to a new jobJob titles you are considering
- Location(s) and commute time that you would prefer
- Important: LinkedIn is in the process of gradually rolling out this feature, and it may not be available to you at this point in time.
- Types of jobs you are open to
- Industries you’re considering
- The size of the company you’d like to work for
4. Any changes made to your job preferences will be automatically saved
How do I use Indeed in my job search?
Think of Indeed as a Google-like search engine, but a search engine that only lists job postings it gathers from multiple sources. The advantage of using Indeed in your job search is that it pulls job listings from thousands of job boards, newspapers, associations, and company websites and puts them all in one place for you to review.
Use Indeed as your search engine for jobs. Enter your target job title or keywords relating to your target position in the ‘what’ box below and your target location in the ‘where’ box to have Indeed search through its database to find all the job opportunities that match your search criteria.
How do I find job opportunities with the federal government?
Federal government jobs are available throughout the country, not just in the Washington, D.C. area. You can find federal government job opportunities at USAJobs, the federal government’s official jobs website:
Process to Follow
Applying for a position with the federal government is more complicated than when applying for a position in the private industry. Here’s a suggested process to follow when applying for a job with the federal government:
- Recognize upfront that your resume along with your responses to the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) questions will be used to rank you against other candidates to determine whether or not you are called for an interview regarding a federal government job announcement.
- Print a hard copy of the job announcement and highlight keywords and keyword phrases describing the position’s duties and responsibilities.
- Review your existing resume to see if you have included resume content that addresses each of the keywords and keyword phrases you highlighted in the previous step. Note any areas where you have experience related to a particular keyword or keyword phrase, but your current resume doesn’t include that experience.
- Add resume content to address all keywords and keyword phrases that your existing resume doesn’t currently cover.
- Print a hard copy of the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) questions and review the questions.
- Plan to spend a significant amount of time (likely several hours) developing your responses to the KSA questions. As a general rule-of-thumb, plan on each KSA response being roughly two to four paragraphs in length.
- Incorporate the keywords you identified in step 2 above into your KSA responses.
- Be sure to include detailed examples that illustrate your experience related to a particular KSA in your response to that KSA question. Use your KSA responses to expand upon information given in your resume.
- Include relevant information in your KSA response even if you have already included the information on your resume.
- If a KSA question asks you to self-assess your experience in an area (through a simple yes or no response or to pick from a list of predefined experience levels), be sure to include information in your resume to support your self-assessment or the government reviewer could revise your self-assessment based on lack of supporting detail. Also support your self-assessment through your responses to the KSAs.
Where do I find nonprofit job opportunities?
- You can find nonprofit job opportunities on Work for Good, a national online job site focused exclusively on the nonprofit community. Over 25,000 nonprofit organizations, national recruitment firms, government agencies and local service providers utilize this site to post nonprofit job opportunities.
- Another resource for nonprofit job postings is the jobs section of Idea List.
Working with Executive Recruiters
What role will executive recruiters play in my job search?
Recruiters are used by employers to fill specific job vacancies. They are tasked with sourcing candidates that meet their client’s detailed requirements. Recruiters are nicknamed ‘headhunters’ because they are actively seeking or hunting for the ideal candidates for the client companies they represent.
Contingency-based executive recruiters only get paid when they successfully place a candidate with an employer. Retained recruiters are paid on an assignment basis, but to maintain a long-term relationship with a client they also need to produce results. Both types of recruiters are constantly on the lookout for candidates who will make a strong impression with their clients.
Although you will want to include working with executive recruiters in your job search, you shouldn’t rely on an executive recruiter to find you a job, since that isn’t their responsibility. Executive recruiters spend their time finding candidates to fill job vacancies, not finding a job for a job seeker. The client they serve is not you, but rather the company that pays their fees.
The ideal candidate
An executive recruiter wants to present to the client company candidates that meet all of the company’s requirements to demonstrate to the client company that they provide value and to earn their fees by successfully placing the candidate in the position.
If the client wants candidates with MBAs and 5+ years of medical device experience, and you lack an MBA and don’t have any experience in the medical device industry, it’s unlikely that an executive recruiter would present you to their client. You will have the most success with an executive recruiter if you are looking for the same type of position you last held in the same industry and possess the level of education that client companies require for that type of position.
An important interview that isn’t with an employer
Executive recruiters are not willing to invest their time and expertise in candidates they don’t think they can sell. That’s why one of your most important interviews is the one you have with the recruiter. If the recruiter isn’t impressed, they aren’t going to send you out on job interviews with their client companies.
Here’s how you can increase your chances of having executive recruiters pass your resume on to a client company:
- Recognize that executive recruiters aren’t an appropriate resource for you if you hope to change career fields, if you want to work in an industry where you have no related experience, or if you want to pursue opportunities where you lack the level of education that position requires
- Write a cover letter that clearly indicates the type of position you are seeking and provides target job titles
- Make sure your resume contains keywords that are applicable to the position you’re seeking
- Provide your resume in the format the executive recruiter requests, whether it be a Word attachment to an email, an ASCII attachment to an email, or through an online application process on the recruiter’s website
- Make sure that you don’t waste everyone’s time by approaching executive recruiters who do not place individuals in the type of position you are seeking or in your target geography
If you meet the requirements for a job position that they are actively sourcing at the time you submit your resume, an executive recruiter will contact you immediately.
If not, don’t expect to hear from them. Your resume will be added to their database to be considered for future opportunities.
How do I reach out to executive recruiters?
You’ll want to start by building a list of executive recruiters.
Mainly, you’ll Identify recruiters to forward your resume to directly.
Go to the library and find The Directory of Executive Recruiters by Kennedy Information. Your library will likely have a print edition of the directory available for review in its reference section. Ask the reference librarian whether the library also has access to an online version of this directory.
Providing details on over 19,000 recruiters including contact information, this directory is considered the most comprehensive resource for identifying recruiters. The directory provides information about recruiting firms in these formats:
- Job Functions (type of job)
- 120+ Industries (type of company)
- Geographical (city and state)
- Retained Firms
- A-Z Listings
You can also use online resources like Search Firm to build a list of appropriate recruiters that place candidates with your background in your target geography.
What should I include in my cover letter to executive recruiters?
Once you have created a list of executive recruiters to forward your resume to, you’ll need to modify the cover letter you use with employers to include the information a recruiter needs to be able to include you in their database of candidates:
- A list of suggested job titles
- Your target geography in terms of where the position would be located
- Your desired salary range
Can I see an example of a cover letter to an executive recruiter or headhunter?
123 Any Avenue
Any City, Any State 12345
December 14, 2019
Recruiter Company Name
Attn: (If to a specific person)
Recruiter City, State Zip Code
To Whom It May Concern:
I am looking for a new opportunity where I can utilize my financial analysis experience in a dynamic environment. Titles of positions for which I’m qualified include:
- FINANCIAL ANALYST
- ACCOUNTING ANALYST
- BUSINESS ANALYST
- PROJECT COST ACCOUNTANT
[Text Here Same as for Employer Cover Letter Paragraphs 2-4]
I am looking for an opportunity in the Phoenix area. My desired annual compensation is $80,000 – $90,000. I would be pleased to discuss my qualifications with you in more detail in the event that you have a client needing someone with my credentials.
My resume is attached. It will provide you with further details regarding my background. I would appreciate you treating this matter in strict confidence. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Forward your resume and cover letter to executive recruiters
After you have developed a list of recruiters and created your recruiter cover letter, email your resume and recruiter cover letter to your list of recruiters. With this approach, you won’t be applying for a specific opening. Your goal here is to make headhunters aware of you should there be a future need, much in the same way companies use direct mail to promote their products and services.
Tracking Your Job Search Progress
How do I track my job search progress?
If you’ve started applying for positions, you’ve likely come to realize how quickly you can begin to feel overwhelmed and how easy it is to lose track of the details about particular job opportunities. You’ll likely see the benefit of using a system to track your job search progress. If you’re just beginning to apply for positions, you can start out on the right foot by implementing a job search tracking system.
We’ve created a Job Search Tracking Sheet to help you track each position you apply for throughout your job search. To download this Job Search Tracking Sheet in the form of a Word file, click on the following link:
After you’ve clicked on the link, the download for the Job Search Tracking Sheet should begin automatically. If the download does not begin automatically, but instead the file opens in a popup box, then you should save the file to your computer as you would any other Word document.
In addition to filling in the information for each job lead on the tracking sheet, be sure to print a hard copy of the job posting itself for future reference. Keep these job postings in a file folder you can access as needed.
As you move forward with your job search, use this Job Search Tracking Sheet to assess which lead sources are yielding the best results. Adjust the time you invest with each lead source based on the effectiveness of each source.
Preparing for the Interview
How do I determine my desired salary to prepare for the HR phone screen interview?
If a potential employer is interested in you for a particular position, you will likely be contacted by phone by someone in human resources (HR) who has been tasked with conducting a phone interview. The purpose of this phone interview is to narrow down the list of 10-12 individuals whose resumes made it through the initial resume screening process down to 5-7 individuals who will be called in for face-to-face interviews. In other words, the HR person’s objective with the phone interview or phone screen is to find a reason to weed people out. One of the likely questions used to weed candidates out involves your desired salary. If your desired salary is significantly above the employer’s salary range for the position, you will likely be eliminated from further consideration.
To avoid being weeded out for positions you are interested in, you need to research salary information for your target position to determine a realistic desired salary range.
6 ways to determine what you are worth
Are you unsure how to respond when asked about your salary requirements during an interview? Are you wondering how to get what you’re worth during salary negotiations?
Do you know if you are being paid what you’re worth for your current job? Would you like to learn how your salary compares to those of others in your position before your interview?
Here are six sources you can use to gather useful salary information:
1. Use an online Salary Calculator
2. Identify professional and trade associations
3. Identify industry publications
4. Look at online job postings
5. Contact recruiters and headhunters
6. Contact your college placement office or career center
Use the online salary calculator
This online Salary Calculator will provide you with salary information based on your desired job title and geographic area.
As an example, the Salary Calculator gives a typical salary for a Senior Product Manager, Software in Minneapolis, Minnesota of $104,191.
Professional and trade associations
Professional and trade associations often conduct annual salary surveys. Contact or go to the website of appropriate professional and trade associations to learn about salary survey information.
Here’s a free online directory you can use to identify appropriate professional and trade associations:
This directory lists several thousand associations from around the world by their primary professional/occupational focus and/or industry of interest and provides a link to the associated website.
Industry publications are another source of salary information. Research industry publications to identify appropriate annual salary surveys.
Here’s a free online directory of industry publications:
Online job postings
Online job postings, particularly those posted by recruiters and headhunters, often include salary information. Concentrate on reviewing job postings on the top career sites:
As an example, CareerBuilder has an Oracle Functional Analyst posting for a position in Des Moines with a stated salary of $70,000. Monster has an Instrument and Controls Engineer position in Long Island with a posted salary of $70-$85K.
Recruiters and headhunters
Another potential source of salary information is to contact recruiters and headhunters handling positions in your functional area, industry, and geography. They know first hand what employers are willing to pay. Be aware that recruiters and headhunters receive tons of phone calls each day and may not have the time to help you.
Here are two sources you can use to identify appropriate recruiters to contact:
Online Database of Recruiters
Recruiters Online Network offers a searchable online database of over 8,000 recruiters worldwide. You can search this database by career field and geography. There is no cost to you in performing a search. Once you have performed a search, you can select recruiters of interest to obtain their contact information.
Recruiters Online also allows you to post your resume and search job listings posted by recruiters.
If you prefer to use a print publication to identify recruiters, try The Directory of Executive Recruiters.
This print directory lists 14,200 recruiters in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Key information given in the directory includes industries covered, job functions covered, geography covered, and specialties covered by each recruiter. The directory also includes recruiter contact information with phone, fax, email, and web addresses.
Most public libraries will have a copy of the directory available in their reference section.
College placement office or career center
Your college placement office or career center is a great source of salary information for new graduates. They typically track the salaries new graduates receive. The placement office or career center may also be a source for alumni salary information or may have access to useful industry information.
Adjust salary for geography differences
Are you considering jobs in different cities? Are you planning to relocate for your new job? Before accepting a new position, be sure to determine how your salary compares in these different locations.
Use the Cost of Living Calculator to make these salary comparisons.
As an example, according to the Cost of Living Calculator, a salary of $125,000 in Los Angeles, California is equivalent to a $95,018 salary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
After gathering salary information from several of these sources and adjusting the salary data for the cost of living in your desired geography, you will have the information you need to negotiate your salary requirements from a position of strength.
What questions should I expect during an interview?
Below is a list of likely questions you should be prepared to respond to during an interview.
Take the time to write your responses to each question.
Have a friend work with you on a mock interview to help you practice your responses.
Likely interview questions
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why are you looking for a job?
3. Why did you leave your last position? (If appropriate.)
4. What interested you about this job?
5. Why have you been at your current job for so long? (If appropriate.)
6. Why are you looking for a new job when you have been at your current job for such a short time? (If appropriate.)
7. You seem to switch jobs quite frequently. Tell me more about that. (If appropriate.)
8. What are your strengths?
9. What are your weaknesses?
10. How would you handle working on multiple projects simultaneously?
11. Tell me about something you are particularly proud of. (Or tell me about a challenge you undertook.)
12. Tell me about a problem you encountered and how you handled it.
13. Where do you see yourself in five years?
14. Describe your best manager. (Or describe your ideal manager.)
15. Describe your worst manager.
16. Describe your ideal job.
17. Tell me about a mistake you made and what you learned from it.
18. What are your hobbies and interests outside work?
19. What are your salary requirements?
20. What other opportunities are you pursuing?
21. Do you have any questions for me?
What is a behavior-based interview?
A behavioral-based interviewing technique is becoming more commonly used by companies to screen candidates. Behavioral interviewing is based on the theory that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations.
Below are some common types of behavior-based interview questions. As you read each of these questions, we recommend that you develop written responses to each question that you review prior to your interview. If you haven’t taken the time to think of appropriate examples prior to your interview, behavioral-based interview questions can catch you off guard and make you look ill prepared for your interview.
Another benefit of developing responses to the questions given below is that doing so can often trigger ideas for accomplishments to add to your resume.
1. Tell me about a situation where you had to overcome a major obstacle to achieve goals.
2. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and created a plan to handle those problems.
3. Describe a situation where you had to sell your idea to your manager or senior management.
4. Tell me about a time when you analyzed information and made a recommendation.
5. Describe an important decision you have made regarding a task or project at work. What factors influenced your decision?
6. Tell me about a time you helped get a team back on track to meet its objectives.
7. Give me examples of projects/tasks you initiated on your own.
8. Tell me about a project you worked on that resulted in improving processes or performance.
9. Tell me about a time you found a better way to do something.
10. Tell me about a time you balanced multiple projects successfully.
11. Tell me about a time you worked well under pressure.
12. Tell me about a project you delegated successfully.
13. Tell me about a time you dealt with an irate customer.
14. Tell me about a situation in which you had to adapt to changes over which you had no control.
15. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get the job done.
Take some time to think of appropriate answers to these questions prior to your interview.
References & Recommendations
How do I develop my reference list and request letters of recommendation?
To be prepared when references are requested by a potential employer, develop your reference list now.
Who should I ask to be a reference or provide a letter of recommendation for me?
There are many people you can ask to be a reference for you or to provide you with a letter of recommendation. Here are some ideas:
- Your former boss at your most recent employer
- Your former boss at a previous employer
- Peers in your department at your most recent employer
- Peers in your department at a previous employer
- Coworkers in other departments at your most recent employer
- Coworkers in other departments at previous employers
- Individuals you did volunteer work with
A positive reference or letter of recommendation from a former boss will carry a significant amount of weight with a prospective employer. If obtaining a reference or letter of recommendation from a former boss isn’t possible, then references or letters of recommendation from customers, former peers, and former coworkers are your next best options. Strive for three references, if possible.
Once a potential employer has requested your references, contact each reference to let them know about the opportunity itself, the name of the person who might be contacting them, and what you’d like them to stress in their discussions with this potential employer. Ask them to let you know if they are contacted.
Can I see an example of a reference list?
Portland, Oregon 12345
Former Manager at ABC Company
Director of Marketing
Portland, Oregon 12345
Former Coworker at XYZ Company
789 South Street
Cleveland, OH 45677
Former Manager at Acme, Inc.
V.P. of Sales
1514 Morgan Ave.
Cleveland, OH 45677
What should be included in a letter of recommendation?
If someone has agreed to provide you with a letter of recommendation, but needs your help to know what to include in the letter, consider providing the letter writer with this format guide:
To Whom It May Concern:
Introduction (one paragraph)
State that you’re writing a letter of recommendation for the individual. For example: “I am pleased to recommend John Smith.”
Explain how you know the individual and for how long. For example: “Having been John’s manager at XYZ corporation for the last five years, I worked closely with John and was impressed with his work.”
Body (two or three paragraphs)
Include specifics that relate to your working relationship with the individual, such as:
- A summary of job responsibilities
- Key achievements/assignments/projects
- Personal strengths supported by examples
State that the individual would be a desirable employee and mention your recommendation again.
Additional information to provide the letter writer
If you have a specific achievement/assignment/project that you’d like a particular letter writer to highlight, provide them with this information.
The same approach applies to your job responsibilities and personal strengths. If there are particular items you’d like the writer to emphasize, provide the writer with this guidance.
What should I include in my interview thank you letter?
Once you’ve completed an interview—whether it was a phone interview or a face-to-face interview—you should email a thank you letter to those you spoke with.
Use this thank you letter as an opportunity to highlight your strongest selling points for this particular position. Also include in your thank you letter any key points you forgot to mention in the interview that you feel will help sell you.
Here are some key points to consider when developing a thank you letter:
- Remember that the main point of sending a thank you letter is to help you stand out in the eyes of an employer, since a high percentage of your competition won’t take the time to send one.
- Write a thank you letter to each person you met with.
- Send your thank you letter as soon as possible—the day of or the day after the interview.
- To ensure a timely delivery, email the thank you letter if possible. To gather the appropriate email addresses, ask for business cards at the interview.
- Keep your thank you letter to no more than one page.
- Start by thanking the interviewer for meeting with you.
- Express your interest in the position.
- Identify a few of your strongest selling points and reiterate them in the cover letter.
- Cover any key points you forgot to mention in the interview.
- Close by again thanking the interviewer for their time, expressing your interest in the position, and indicating you hope to hear from them soon.
Can I see an example of an interview thank you letter?
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Home Phone Number
Your Work Phone Number
Your E-mail Address
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Thanks for meeting with me today to discuss the product manager position. Based on what you described, the position is suited to my skills and experience. I am very interested in the opportunity.
As I mentioned during our discussions, I have extensive experience developing and implementing product launch plans for technology-based products. I believe this experience could be utilized by your organization to meet your goal of launching five new products during the next fiscal year.
My experience marketing products using various sales channels including direct sales forces, manufacturer’s representatives, and distributors would be an asset to your company as you strive to add a new distribution network. I forgot to mention during our meeting that I have led teams in the development of collateral material provided to distributors to support their sales efforts.
I appreciate the time you took to meet with me to discuss the product manager position. I am very interested in working for you and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Your Typed Name