Blog: What To Do When You Consistently Place Second For Jobs

Blog: What To Do When You Consistently Place Second For Jobs

Last week I gave a presentation on how to apply one's project management skills to one's job search. After the presentation, I had several discussions and e-mail exchanges with people who were consistently coming up as the second place candidate in job searches. It's a source of frustration and stress for all of us, so in addition to the specific advice I offered them, I developed some ideas on changes we could make to our job searches that would result in making us the candidate of choice.

There are only three key elements in a job search: you, your target market and your connections to that market. "You" can be further broken down into: your resume, your job search methods and your interviews. If your job search is not working, then you must objectively review each of these elements to see what needs adjusting.

Your Resume: A lesson I learned recently is that a resume is not designed to get you a job. Rather, a resume is a marketing device whose sole purpose is to sell an interview with you to a prospective recruiter or employer. If your resume tries to accomplish anything more than that, you're giving away control of your job search by giving the reader the ability to pass judgment on you before they even talk to you.

There are numerous books, articles, blogs and specialists available to help you review and adjust your resume to meet that goal.

Also, even though they are very busy, most good recruiters can tell you how your resume compares to others in your market with similar levels of experience. After talking to several recruiters and reviewing sites like (Seven Resume Best Practices and Bullet-Proof CIO Resume), RiteSite, JibberJobber and CareerBuilder for resume tips and hints, I used the combined recommendations to rewrite my resume.

In my case, my reviewers commented positively that I had customized my resume to specific industries and had related my major accomplishments to bottom-line and strategic business results. However, my major accomplishments were scattered throughout my resume, and I provided far too many details for all my achievements. They also recommended dropping the dates on all my experience and education before 2000 and summarizing most of these to only one line per position. They also underscored the importance of customizing each resume to each opportunity using specific key words from the position's specifications and requirements. Finally, they had me create a one-page summary resume as a marketing tool, highlighting a few significant career achievements directly relevant to each opportunity. The recruiters unanimously agreed that the keys to a successful resume are absolute clarity on what you can bring to your prospective employer and concise specifics as to why you are more qualified for that specific job than anyone else.

You can also send your new resume to a few professional resume writers, many of whom offer a free review with suggestions. I requested this free review from two professional resume writers and two executive recruiters specialized in resume redesign. Only one of the professional resume writers responded, but he provided several suggestions and of course recommended that a complete rewrite would produce dramatic results. But even better, both recruiters scheduled a 30-minute call to review line by line what edits and changes they would recommend. I made those final edits and I am now in the process of getting it out to all my executive recruiting contacts and updating the major and specialized career sites I'm using.

Your Job Search Methods: If you're getting calls and even a few interviews, that generally says you're on the right track. But if you're not getting those initial calls or not getting second calls, then your job search methods may be too generalized (e.g. you're following a "shotgun" method of sending your resume everywhere in hopes of hitting something). Another culprit may be that you're not narrowing your job search to targets appropriate for your industry and experience.

Planning your job search takes time and effort to make it effective. Calling a few headhunters, reading the Sunday want ads, and posting your resume on one or two job boards won't cut it any more. Not in this market and not at the senior and managerial ranks-the competition is too intense. Better ways to handle each of these topics are summarized in this blog entry.

Another missing link for many job seekers is networking. Networking is not a spectator sport. Networking is also not effective if you do it alone. You need to get out from behind your desk and into a crowd of people who are doing what it is you want to do. Attend industry forums and conferences, and by all means, participate-ask questions. Have a cup of coffee with friends in the industry. Read up on the latest technology or management methodology and invite several people you know and respect to meet and discuss it together. The idea is to keep yourself involved and enlightened with the topics and people in the industry. These kinds of activities not only keep you energized and keep your technical and communication skills sharp, but they also open doors into the "hidden" market of jobs that never get posted.

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