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Five Ways to Become Job-Search Savvy

Some people scour jobs boards, others network like there's no tomorrow. Whatever your job-search strategy, here's five tips to help you stand out from the pack.

Think Strategically

"You never want to get caught behind changes in the marketplace," says Dawn Fay, New York-based regional vice president of Robert Half International. "When the market changes, it's often subtle, so stay ahead of the game." That means reading as much as you can in professional and generic publications and Web sites and constantly nurturing your network to keep the pulse of the hiring climate. "There's always an ebb and flow of demand for certain skills and positions. Stay focused on the big picture," Fay says. "Keep an inventory of your skills and network going and really think things through."

You also may have to learn to think entrepreneurially, to reformat your skills to match morphing market demand - or to create a position for yourself where none may have existed. "Too many people in traditional accounting get tunnel vision and don't see which other parts of their personality can shine," says Jerry Gonzalez, a senior accountant for salary professional services for Robert Half and Accountemps in Seattle. "You have to be flexible, however the market changes. Part of my mantra is not necessarily seeking out change, but being ready for it. Stay positive and be proactive."

Request informational interviews

"Don't be afraid to contact senior managers and ask for informational interviews. It may sound simple but it's seldom done. Everyone goes to Web sites," says Diane Albergo, director of career services and human resources for Financial Executives International, a membership organization of senior-level finance professionals headquartered in Florham Park, N.J. "Explore your network and ask for that time."

One caveat: You can't just call senior people at firms you'd like to work for and ask for an hour of their day. You have to network your way in. "Don't just pick up the phone and say, 'Hey, give me five job leads,'" says Jon Alpert, CFO of New York-based beverage company Apple & Eve. "I'm open to providing an industry overview if the person networked in from a reliable source."

When asked whether he grants informational interviews, Andreas Rothe, senior vice president and global controller of PB, an infrastructure services firm headquartered in New York, says, "If it's a person connected to somebody I know, yes." Rothe recommends registering to networking sites "to connect with people at the companies you're targeting. I know obviously my network. What I don't know is whom they know." By utilizing networking sites, he says, "within two to three degrees of separation, you have access to over one million people."

A second caveat is you must do your homework before you even touch the phone. "You need to prepare. I'm busy and I'm lazy. If you want me to help you, tell me how to help you," Alpert says. "Say, 'This is the information and help I think you can provide.' The art of that is that if you make it easy for me, I'm willing to help you."

Use Visual Aids

"Going through the door and interviewing, you want to wow them as much as you can. Research the company through and through. Bring a presentation - a Powerpoint, for example, or a binder or portfolio - about what you can do for the company, especially for senior-level positions," Diane Albergo says.

"Present alternatives and solutions" that highlight the particular expertise you bring to issues the company faces, she adds. However, she warns against using video. "I don't think it's advisable because it takes a natural acting talent financial people don't have. They come across better in person," Alpert says.

Stand Out From the Competition

"Creativity - not cuteness or cleverness - is important," Albergo says. She suggests creating an addendum to your resume that lists your professional accomplishments and extras, like community service work, for example.

Some people might be inclined to send little gifts to hiring managers, interviewers or people they've met through networking. Albergo mentions sending a book you might have talked about. But while Alpert thinks sending a sleeve of golf balls might be appropriate in some situations, he says it's more beneficial to "send useful follow-up information."

Don't Burn Bridges

Networking is supposed to be a mutually beneficial process. Information is supposed to flow two ways. You never know when you might want to contact someone again. However, Alpert says, "98 percent of the people who network into me never finish the process. I never hear from these guys when they've landed. Stay in touch. Finish the circle. Tell me what you're going to be doing, so I can see if I want you in my network."

Originally published June 18, 2007

AUTHORCarol Lippert Gray Insider Comment
  • ma
    2 July 2009

    Excellent article as it very adequately pertains to mid to senior level professionals. In my personal opinion, although the tips do apply to all levels regardless, the nuances of each of the five define the subtle "HOWs" of what makes a candidate different from all the others. As one progresses up their career ladder, it's automatically assumed that you already know the "WHATs" of the job, hiring managers look at the distinctions in how you do your job differently than everyone else in making their hiring determinations. I've used the informational interviews to help me make a more informed decision about possible career pathing and the people I've met through this method have been very helpful.

    Great reminder in the Don't Burn Bridges section of making sure that you follow up by letting people know where you ended up in the career search process and thanking them for being a part of it. As I continue my job hunt, I'll be sure to close the loop on this with everyone in my network.

  • Ab
    Abbe Rosenthal, Leadership &am
    2 July 2009

    Although this was originally written in June 2007, it remains applicable even in the current challenging economic climate. The only tweak might be regarding "Stand Out From the Competition". Hiring leaders and heads of staffing/recruiting are now receiving 400+ resumes per vacancy. Sending a thank you gift, or even a book, might be viewed as a desperate technique (again, considering the current state of the economy). Therefore, I would suggest before the search begins to reframe with a self-branding approach. Stand apart by creating an incredibly powerful resume (or a portfolio highlighting engagements and accomplishments that expands items on your resume), strengthening your interviewing skills through self/insight assessments, learning how to use online and off-line networking vehicles, and throughout the process focus on identifying your transferable skills to broaden your career opportunities. You might find you are qualified for positions in other industries or disciplines that play more to your strengths, and interest. Lastly, build a support network of family and friends who will remind you in moments of frustration to keep going as you are not alone

  • Jo
    Jon Jacobs
    1 July 2009

    Maurice, try being a little more articulate next time.

    We welcome criticism. But no one welcomes pure negativity divorced from any ideas or details.

    -Jon Jacobs, eFinancialCareers News staff

  • Ma
    1 July 2009

    This makes no sense - sorry.

  • Ed
    Edward J Gibbons
    12 July 2007

    Managers hire candidates that they feel comfortable with. That means the Manager would take the "risk" of adding to his/her staff the candidate that will provide a solution in a manner befitting the Organization. Therefore it is the Candidates'job to act and react to the flow of the interview, so the Mangager feels good about his/ her decision to make an offer.

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