Job Search Tips That Will Get You a Job in 2012

By POPSUGAR Smart Living on 19 January 2012 (Updated 24 February 2012) 13 comments

Unemployment has dipped to 8.6%, but there are still quite a number of people who are searching for jobs. Even among my circle of friends, I see that some of them are still facing layoffs or are struggling to find jobs. There really is a trick to job hunting, and interviewing is a skill you can pick up. Make sure you're not doing the wrong things by reading a roundup of the best job search tips we've featured in the past, and use those to get your dream job in 2012!

RELATED: How to Get Jobs You Didn't Know Existed

Use Google Doc Templates

If you're job hunting, the Google Doc Templates gallery will be your BFF. You can download relevant templates and customize them to use for your application or your prep process. Here are a couple templates you might find helpful:

  • Modern Résumé: A very modern and clean looking résumé that has a simple design. It doesn't look too cluttered up and has just the right professional touch.
     
  • To-Do List: When you're job hunting, you're going to have a never-ending to-do list for things like reaching out to contacts, going to events, sending résumés to a certain company. Keep your job search tasks organized in this Google template.
     
  • Job Interview One-Sheeter: This is a great, great interview tool that will help you prepare. It's nice to have all your points located on a single sheet of paper so you can make sure you're covering all your bases. It's also handy because you can print it out and quickly look over for a refresher before an interview.
     
  • Networking Tracker: To keep track of the many people you'll come in contact with while networking for a job, use this sheet to stay on top of things. Note: Although the preview doesn't seem to be working, the template still downloads and works fine.

Send a Thank You Letter

It's very important to follow up after a job interview, because even if you think the interview went badly, keeping in touch may improve the interviewer's perception of you. It reflects persistence, and it's also polite to thank the hiring manager after the interview. Remember to also send the note within two days of the interview; although, if you've passed the two-day mark, a late response is better than no response.

There is such a thing as being too pushy, so keep it light, cheery, and professional. Here is a sample of the kind of email you should send:

Dear Interviewer,

It was great meeting you today, and I appreciate you taking the time to interview me. I'm excited to be considered for the (name the position) as well as all of the opportunities the company presents. I had a good time discussing my passion of (insert what you're passionate about) and really enjoyed learning more about (insert what new tidbit you learned about the company).

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to following up with you.

Best,

Interviewee

Ask the Right Questions

A job interview is incomplete without a question and answer session that has you doing the asking. You should be prepared with relevant questions about the company, the job at hand, and your potential future with the organization. Keep your interview on the right track and your foot out of your mouth by asking questions the right way.

Don't Seem Entitled

  • Don't Ask: How long before I get a promotion?
  • Do Ask: What are the opportunities for advancement, and do you typically promote from within?

Don't Make Your Interviewer Uncomfortable

  • Don't Ask: Is there anything about me that would prevent me from getting this job?
  • Do Ask: What qualifications are you looking for in the person who fills this job?

Don't Be a Gossip

  • Don't Ask: I heard the CEO was involved in scandalous activity; is that true?
  • Do Ask: While researching your firm I learned that the company recently [fill in the blank]. Can you tell me a little bit more about this development?

Don't Get Bogged Down in Details

  • Don't Ask: Can you break down my day in terms of hours spent doing A, B, C, D, etc.?
  • Do Ask: Can you tell me what my average day would be like?

Don't Seem Greedy

  • Don't Ask: What kinds of perks do you get around here?
  • Do Ask: What do you enjoy most about working here?

Don't Focus on the Negative

  • Don't Ask: What's the worst part about this job?
  • Do Ask: Given my background and experience, what do you think will be the greatest challenge for me in the beginning?

Don't Ask Frivolous Questions

  • Don't Ask: How many other applicants are you interviewing?
  • Do Ask: How soon do you expect to make a decision?

Bring the Right Items

Job hunting is a process more people are having to go through as companies undergo big layoffs in the face of a challenged economy. It's competitive out there and the little details matter more with crowded applicant pools. Make your case stronger by showing up prepared — check for these five items before you head out the door.

Interviewer / Company Phone Number

Even if you've allowed plenty of time for traffic the unexpected can always happen, like an accident that prevents you from getting to your interview on time. Have the phone number handy so you can call and discuss timing, and possibly reschedule your interview over the phone for another time.

Reference Sheet

Bring a sheet separate from your résumé that lists your professional references. It's usually a good sign when the interviewer asks for references, so eliminate any hesitation by providing your reference list on the spot.

Résumé

Print several out on nice paper and carry them with you in the same portfolio where you keep the reference sheet. Interviewers are usually prepared with their own printed version, but what if the printer ran out of ink just before you arrived? Eliminate hassle by supplying a copy of your own.

Notebook With Prepared Questions

It is inevitable the interviewer will ask if you have any questions for her. As long as you've remembered to bring the notebook where you outlined prepared questions, this part of the interview will be a breeze.

A Pen That Works

You'll need something to write down notes during your interview, for your own information and if there's anything that triggers questions you may want to save for the end. Just be sure to scribble before you leave the house so you're not stuck with a useless pen.

Have the Six Degrees Mentality

When you're slogging through those job applications and waiting anxiously by your phone, you must be thinking, there's got to be an easier way to do this. There is — having the six degrees separation mentality will help make the job hunting process a lot smoother. It's the theory that everyone in the world is connected to each other within six steps, so this means that if there's someone you're trying to meet, you're connected to him somehow, perhaps through a friend of a friend.

The six degrees separation mindset helps when you're job hunting, because you'll know that somewhere, somehow, someone will be able to make introductions for you and help you get your dream job. All you need to do is to tap into your friend network and try to find someone who works in the industry or company where you'd love to be. A great way to figure out your connections is LinkedIn, because the social network maps out all your professional relationships for you. But the way that seems to help the most (at least when I was job hunting), is to ask everyone around if they know of anyone at the company or industry you are interested. Just start asking today, you'll be surprised at how small the world really is.

Fill in Résumé Gaps

You're looking for a job, but it's taking a while, and the gap in your résumé seems to be growing bigger as time passes. Your situation is pretty understandable, as this is a tough economy, so don't feel insecure about it. What you can do to make yourself stand out as an excellent job candidate is to prove that you've been making good use of your time. Here are some things you can do to fill the résumé gaps:

Volunteer

Don't shy away from stating your volunteer activities on your résumé, whether it be for a nonprofit for a cause you love or doing some pro bono work in your field. Both kinds of volunteer work make for great learning experiences.

Professional Organizations

Being part of an organization related to your field will help your résumé gap as well as aid you in your networking. Try to lobby for a position at a professional organization, and participate in activities that will give you a lot of face time with people.

Temping

We've given some tips on listing your temp jobs on your résumé. But do consider temping while you're looking for a job; it's a great way to earn cash, and maybe even a chance for you to get a foot in the company you're keen on working for.

Blogging

Blogging is a great way to release your frustrations and can be an interesting detail to put on your résumé. To make it more relevant, it would be great if you can blog about something in your field. You can also polish your web design skills so your employer knows that you have a lot of talent up your sleeve!

Classes

Taking some courses at a local college is a good way to learn new skills or polish up old ones, which will make you a more valuable job candidate. It will also show that you're really serious about continuously improving yourself.

Freelance

Start freelancing or even start your own company while you're out there looking for jobs. A lot of people start their own small business as a way to make extra cash, and even if it isn't related to your field, it shows a lot of initiative and creativity.

Organize Your Job Search in a Simple Way

Shooting out so many job applications that you're not spending time catering your résumé and cover letter to each position is simply counterproductive. However, an efficient job search includes dedicating several hours each day to the employment cause, and ideally this means applying for a handful of jobs each day. Keep track of your daily job search by creating log. Maintain a spreadsheet with the following details and update it at the end of each day.

  • Applications sent — name of positions and companies.
  • Where you found the job.
  • Follow-up status.
  • A section listing the job sites you visited that day.

Organizing your job search will ensure that none of your efforts slip through the cracks, and looking at your full spreadsheet will make you feel accomplished.

Show You Care About the Company

When you're in an interview, try your best to show that you care about the company and how you want to help it grow. Asking questions about promotions or continuously focusing on what you can get out of this job position may be off-putting to your interviewer. Questions about career progression should be asked after you get the job, and after you've been at the job for a good while. The best time to address the topic of promotion is usually during a performance review.

Remember, your interviewer has probably talked to a ton of job candidates, which means she pretty much knows what you're thinking when you ask questions with promotions in mind. She will know why you're asking her how long she's been at her position and how long it took for her to move up. Don't get me wrong, it's OK to bring it up briefly and with finesse, but you need to be really careful about how you phrase it. Be sure not to belabor the point and put less emphasis on what's in it for you, and more on what you can do for the company.

Become a Networking Whiz

There really is an art to networking, and don't worry if your efforts haven't been paying off — workin' your contacts is a skill that can be learned. In this poor job market, people might be a little jaded about strangers reaching out to them for a job, so make sure you're being smart about your approach. Here are some things to start doing in order to become a networking whiz:

Build Up a Relationship Before You Ask for Help

Don't get to know a person because you want to ask them for a job, work on building a relationship with the future possibilities in mind. And even if you don't get a job, perhaps your contact will be able to give you valuable career advice or maybe even make the right introductions. This is also known as having "a knack for spotting future opportunities," Jonathan Kriendler, the founder of an online career management tools site, says. "...companies are like living organisms. Things change constantly. People retire or quit and new projects get launched, so new opportunities are always on the horizon...by putting yourself ahead of the curve, you find out about them in advance rather than after the fact."

Remember Details

Take note of conversations you've had with this person so you'll be able to reference back to them later.

Listen and Learn

Listen "twice as much as you talk." If you're doing more listening than talking, you'll be able to recognize trends and take advantage of them as they're happening or even before they take off.

Share Your Knowledge

Go online and share your expertise with people. Build your name and reputation so others maybe start reaching out to you because of your visibility on the web. Answer questions on LinkedIn groups or check out Quora, which is sort of like a more professional version of Yahoo! answers.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Clean Your Social Media History

If you need a reason to watch what you tweet and Facebook, know that potential employers have their eye on everything you've ever published on social media platforms. Initially, we assumed people only had to be wary of their recent history, but this firms actually have the ability to get a record of your whole social media history, which includes things you've posted on Craigslist, image-sharing sites, and YouTube.

It's getting easier for firms to look up your history thanks to startups, which do the searching for them. There's one called Social Intelligence that neatly compiles a report of all your Internet activity in the last seven years and searches for things like "online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity."

Here's how to make sure your records will be squeaky clean.

Google Yourself

Thoroughly Google yourself to see what online footprints you've left on the web. Use combinations of your name and add keywords such as the companies you've worked for or the schools you attended.

Make a List of Emails and Accounts

You may have forgotten about old emails you had way back when. Make a list of the emails and try to access them to see if there are any websites or accounts for you to check up on. Then make a list of accounts, community boards, websites you've visited and participated in. For example, is there an old Xanga or Friendster account that you've forgotten about? Have you been a little loose-lipped on your Reddit account? Check them out to make sure that there aren't any red flags, or even delete them if you don't feel comfortable with the accounts.

Play Around With Privacy Settings

Consider making your Twitter private and play around with privacy settings on Facebook so that users who are not your friends can only see very basic information, such as your name and your gender. Or, you can even make yourself unsearchable if you click on certain options. Remember to be cautious with new social media sites such as Google+ and make sure you're fully aware of their privacy settings before sharing too much on the platform.

Don't Put Up Anything Racy or Offensive

The best way to keep your record clean is to be clean on the Internet. Keep personal thoughts, pictures, and videos to yourself and don't write anything too controversial if you don't want it coming back to haunt you.

Make the Right Moves to Work in Your Dream City

You might dream of packing your bags and running off to make it big in New York City, but the fact of the matter is, it's extremely hard to get a call back from an employer if you don't live the same city. To raise your chances of succeeding, here are some things you should do:

Move There

The best way to find a job in the city you'd love to work in is to be on the ground, networking, and interviewing in the city itself. That will save you plenty of awkward questions about where you're actually living. However, this option is not ideal for everyone since it's going to be hard to cover the cost of moving and living expenses when you're not making any income. Although this is probably your best bet for getting a job in the city you want, it's also the most costly.

Find a Company Contact

Since your location is working against you, you need an extra edge to get an "in" at the company. Network through your existing contacts or through networking sites like LinkedIn and do your best to find an employee or a friend who knows someone at the company. It'll definitely increase your chances of scoring an interview despite your zip code.

Borrow an Address

Approach a friend and ask her if you can borrow her address for your résumé. I've heard from several friends that they only started hearing back from employers when they used a local address. Try not to make it a focal point during an interview, and remember if it comes up, be honest about where you live, and voice your plans to relocate.

Get a Google Voice Number

Sign up for a Google Voice phone number that has a local number so that you can list that on your résumé.

Enlist the Help of a Local Recruiter

Contact a local recruiter who specializes in your industry and use their services to help find you a job in that city.

Negotiate Your Starting Salary

If you're job-hunting, don't start sweating when an interviewer asks how much you would like to get paid. Be aware that salary talk might come up during your interview, so make sure you're prepared. Just keep these five tips from Jim Hopkinson, author of Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You, in mind, and you're good to go!

  • "Defer all specific salary talk until you know that they want you for the job. That means evading salary questions on job applications (write “negotiable”) and during initial screening interviews (stress the need to learn more about the position first)."
     
  • "As a job seeker, you should never be the person who brings up salary first."
     
  • "Once the salary question does come up, use the 'Right Back at Ya' method to put the ball back in their court."
     
  • "Use effective pauses in the conversation, as people tend to speak to fill the silence and may divulge important information in the process."
     
  • "There is more to a job than just salary. Remember that other benefits may also be negotiable — a better title, more vacation, flextime, bonuses, education reimbursement, and paid travel to conferences."

Remember, salary negotiation at the start of your new job is very important, because it will affect your future earnings. One of the main reasons why women earn less than men is because they don't negotiate at the start of their new job. Keep these tips in mind when you're interviewing!

Improve Your Résumé

Your résumé might be a single piece of paper, but that document is an extension of you. It's one of the first ways employers evaluate your potential to fill an open position, so even if you're confident in your interview abilities, you won't get an invitation to show them off unless your résumé is compelling. Here are some ways to improve it.

Make It Current

Before you make any other changes to your existing résumé, add any accomplishments you've scored recently. You'd be selling yourself short to leave out anything important, so stay on top of the game by updating your résumé on a regular basis.

Delete What's Irrelevant

Somewhere down the road, someone told us that we should include fluffy language in our résumés. Things like, "good communication skills and multitasker," are just taking up space and won't mean anything to the person reading it. These qualities should speak for themselves through the professional experience you spelled out in your cover letter and résumé.

Organize

It's been said that hiring managers spend less than a minute to make a judgment about your résumé. Get them to absorb as much information about you in a short time by using an easy-to-read format. You don't need fancy design skills; you just need to know how to use bullet points for separating thoughts and clear headers to announce distinct sections.

Self-Edit

If any of your bullet points require multiple breaths to read aloud or contain sentences within, you have a pretty good indication that you're being too wordy. Ask yourself what the main point is for each of your bullets and write down your immediate answer. Some things might need to be condensed, while others might just require another bullet point.

Be Verb-Smart

Think nothing is worse than a spelling error? I'd argue that using incorrect tenses is just as bad and tells your interviewer the same thing — that you're sloppy. Triple check that each of your points begins with a verb in its proper tense (i.e., use current tense for your current job or activities and past tense for your previous positions).

Showcase Your Experience

There comes a time in a young professional's life when she has enough experience to make it the first thing a recruiter sees on her résumé. Education is still important, but it's not as important as your professional experience after you've spent some time in the real working world. After you've landed your first job after college, it's time to push the education section below experience (this is true in most professions but can vary for specific careers).

Discover more résumé improvements here.

Find Out Why You Didn't Get the Job

So you got rejected from a job, but you got an email from your interviewer telling you that you were great, they loved your résumé and interview answers, and think you're a perfect match for their company, but it's just that they can't find the right position for you. However, they'll keep you in mind for the future. Maybe they even called you to tell you that. They seemed so sincere and actually made the effort to tell you, so they must be telling the truth right? Well, there's a chance that it might be the case, but sometimes they are just trying to soften the blow. After all, the firm can't tell you the real reason for not hiring you because the company may get into legal trouble. The risk for them to tell you why you lost out to another candidate is great — you might see it as discrimination.

The best way to find out why you didn't get the job is to do some mock interviewing with your friends or professional contacts. If you're getting all positive feedback and aren't learning anything new, perhaps you need to pick different people to practice with. Try prepping with your best friends, because good pals don't shy away from telling you the truth if it'll help you.

This is a guest contribution from our friends at SavvySugar. Check out more useful articles from this partner:

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Guest's picture
Helen

Yes, and the Google Docs Templates are very useful!

Guest's picture
Greg

Hey, Savy,

Good stuff. Check out your "Modern Resume" - I know modern is good, but even a "Modern" resume should not list References - especially as "Referees" - unless of course you are applying for a job as a Referee :). References are supplied on request - if you want to continue the process. Otherwise don't just hand them out as you should value your references and their time - you don't want them to be contacted if you don't wish to pursue a position. And you don't want their contact info to go into someone's database for who knows what purpose. So be discrete in handing out your reference (not "Referees'") info.

Guest's picture
Von C.

If you are believing the press releases by Washington that says unemployment is down to 8.5% you are sadly mis-informed. The true numbers are in excess of 30%, they are only counting the people that are still drawing un-employment. They don't count the people that have run out of benefits and still haven't found a job. Or the ones that could only find a minimum wage job that won't pay for anything. There are some areas of the country that are doing better, but the majority are in very sad shape.

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Guest

Modern Resume & Job Interview One Sheeter links go to 'Document doesn't exist'.

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Google docs is wonky sometimes. Try reloading!

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Matt Tewes

Savy,

Great tips! As someone currently in the job market many of these tips will be things that hopefully will help me in the future.

Guest's picture

Kind of crazy / unnerving that someone is making money off of collecting everyone's social media history!

Guest's picture
Young

These tips are awesome! One of the things holding applicants back is they overlook some of the things they do when writing their resume. Keep in mind what a hiring manager would be looking for (independence, fraud detection, multitasking) and be sure to add those things in there.

Guest's picture
Sterling

Does anyone on the hiring end know exactly why we need someone's "objective" on their resume? I recently told someone that I often skip right over this when hiring because it most likely is a version of the truth that the interviewee assumes I want to hear. A friend once asked me if I had an objective on my resume. I told him no because I didn't know how to politely put, "If you are interviewing me, my objective is to have your job."

Guest's picture

This is an excellent and comprehensive post!

My husband recently found a full-time position after six months of unemployment. Even though he's settling into his new job, he's still actively looking for one that's better aligned with his skills and interests - and that offers a more competitive salary.

But I figure it's always easier to find a new job when you have a job!

Guest's picture

I agree with your tips. I find that so many people forget to ask for the job. They go in there and go through the motions and shake hands at the end. Come out and say you want the job and why you would be good for it!!! Thank you letters and emails always leave a lasting impression.

Guest's picture

These are great tips! As a career consultant, I've found that JibberJobber.com is a great job search organizational website and being "creative" on Linkedin searches helps me come up with company and networking ideas. Thanks for pulling it all together in one article. - - Terry Walton www.MyCareerCatapult.com