Spring cleaning your career

It’s a job seekers’ market, so make sure you stand out from the pack by following some of these simple rules.

Job openings are at an all-time high, making this spring an ideal time to land your next opportunity. However, what if it’s been a while since you dusted off that resume and broke out your lucky interview suit?

“With more jobs than people to fill them, the Madison employment market is favorable right now, but professionals still need to put their best foot forward,” says Kyle Kraus, director of permanent placement services for Robert Half in Madison.

According to research from Robert Half, 29% of workers plan to look for a new job in 2018. While some aspects of the job search have changed over time, others are timeless, like having a concise and compelling resume, following up with employers after applying for a job, and sending a thank-you note after an interview.

A few key findings from Robert Half’s research:

  • Resume length is less important. Ten years ago, managers were more likely to want a one-page resume. These days, the length is not as important as the content. A good rule is that unless you have more than a decade of experience in your career, you should limit your resume to one page. Don’t use flashy fonts or unusual formats to attract a hiring manager’s attention. It’s better to rely on integrity and professionalism when crafting your resume, rather than gimmicks to land an interview.
  • The resume isn’t the only thing employers consider when evaluating potential hires. Fifty-six percent of managers said the candidate’s online profile is equally important.
  • Follow-up is expected and appreciated. All HR managers (100% surveyed) encourage candidates to check in after submitting a job application. Email is the most common way to thank a hiring manager, but sending a handwritten note is a great way to stand out from the competition. While the majority of hiring managers (80%) said they take thank-you notes into account when deciding whom to hire, our survey found that managers only received notes from 24% of applicants. On the flip side, one in three (33%) managers said they have removed a candidate from consideration because they were too pushy after an interview.

It should be obvious, but job seekers who follow up with companies after submitting their resume show initiative and demonstrate to hiring managers they are enthusiastic about the opportunity, notes Kraus. “It’s a chance for job seekers to initiate a discussion with the hiring manager as well as another opportunity for them to highlight how they can contribute to the organization’s success.”

Interacting with hiring managers also enables job seekers to ask more questions about the position. By learning more about the role, candidates can be better prepared to discuss the value they bring to it during interviews.

Kraus offers the following dos and don’ts for job seekers when following up:

  • Do communicate via email and phone. Send your follow-up email or call within two weeks of applying for the position. Keep your message clear and concise, and try to come across as calm and confident.
  • Don’t be pushy. Calling multiple times a day or cluttering the employer’s inbox with numerous emails is annoying. Don’t risk being removed from consideration for being too persistent.
  • Do express interest. Use this message to reiterate what you admire about the company, its mission, and the value you would add. Keep the note short and sweet, and don’t forget to check your spelling and grammar.
  • Don’t discuss salary. Following up on your application materials is not the time to bring up compensation, benefits, and perks. Reserve that conversation for when you are further along in the interview process.
  • Do ask about next steps. When you connect with the hiring manager, ask about the next steps in the hiring process and when candidates will be notified about initial or follow-up interviews.
  • Don’t get discouraged. If you never hear back from the employer, it’s time to move on. Use the opportunity to refine your resume or reach out to contacts in your network for leads.

Fresh start

Kraus says it’s important for job seekers looking to refresh their job search to take stock of their successes. As you update your resume and prepare for interviews, be sure to list all of your relevant accomplishment, he advises, and then be ready to explain your most important career achievements with specific examples.

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In this digital age, it’s also imperative for job seekers to review their online presence, Kraus notes. “Review your social media accounts to ensure they cast you in a favorable light,” he says. “Keep your online profile up to date, noting key accomplishments at your current and previous jobs.”

Since your online profile is like a billboard that should appeal to all contacts, don’t forget to include all skills, experience, and notable achievements that might grab a potential employers’ attention. However, if you don’t want to mix your personal and professional lives, then it’s advisable to keep one social media account private for friends and family, and create a secondary, public account on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for more professional posts.

“Most people have an online reputation, even if they don’t intentionally set out to create one,” says Kraus. “The first step is finding out what information is already posted. A good way to do this is typing your first and last name into several popular search engines and then seeing what comes up. You also can check alumni sites, websites of organizations to which you belong or volunteer, and blogs and personal web pages of your friends, family members, or co-workers.”

Remember, notes Kraus, you can control who sees what you post, so activate privacy settings on your accounts. If you belong to social networking sites or have a personal blog, adjust your privacy settings so you control who has access.

Don’t forget to monitor the conversation either. Kraus recommends setting alerts using Google under your name so you can receive an e-mail notification every time something new is said about you online.

Stand out

Kraus says there are also some simple steps job seekers can take to stand out in a competitive market, including the following:

  • Learn about the company. It sounds basic, but many job seekers fail to thoroughly research prospective employers. Find out the history of potential employer’s business, the names of top executives, who the chief competitors are, and the type of news coverage the firm has received. Most of this information can be found by exploring the firm’s website and conducting online searches.
  • When writing resumes, focus on return on investment (ROI). A common resume trap is including a “laundry list” of skills rather than demonstrating actual achievements. No matter how relevant or impressive your skill set, employers want to see how your expertise and efforts will affect the company’s bottom line, so highlight your most relevant achievements, not necessarily what you did in your first job out of college 20 years ago.
  • Show interest and ask questions. An easy way to show genuine interest in a position during an interview is by asking questions that demonstrate awareness of the company. For example, “I understand you have a new competitor, the ABC Company. How do you expect that to affect business?”
  • Go the extra mile. In a competitive market, especially, a simple touch, such as sending a thank-you note after an interview or a pertinent news article, can make a lasting, positive impression with hiring managers.

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