According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, research into younger baby boomers found that these Americans held an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. That’s a lot of jobs — and a lot of job interviews to find them.
Getting hired for a new job can be a stressful process, and when you’re looking for work, sometimes it’s hard to imagine you’ll ever successfully land the job of your dreams. The good news is, you don’t have to fly blind and just hope you get hired. You can maximize the chances you’ll be brought in for an interview and chosen as the company’s newest employee. In fact, here are six things you should do if you’re looking for work to boost your chances of finding your next position.
1. Customize the application material to the job description
2. Rely on your connections — or make the connections you need
3. Research the company
4. Practice for tough interview questions
5. Watch your body language
6. Be specific about your achievements
Are you sending a generic cover letter and the same resume to every position you apply for? If so, the chances your materials will catch the hiring manager’s eyes are slim.
According to research conducted by Ladders, recruiters look at resumes for around six seconds before making an initial assessment about whether a candidate is a good fit. If your qualifications don’t jump out, your resume is likely to go to the reject pile. You want to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager or recruiter to see why you’re qualified, so customize every letter and resume based on the specific position you’re applying for. In fact, it can be helpful to mirror back the language in the job ad so it’s easy to see at a glance that you have the skills the company mentioned they’re seeking.
A recent survey of around 3,000 people found as many as 85% got their jobs through networking in 2015 and 2016. The results confirm the old adage that it’s not what you know that matters, but whom you know.
When you come in with a personal recommendation from a current employee, you’re more likely to be considered seriously as a candidate, and it’s far less likely your resume will get lost in the pile. The hiring manager may also be predisposed to bringing you on board, as you’ve already got a connection with one of your future coworkers.
Obviously, it’s easiest to turn to people you’re already connected to and ask if they know anyone hiring someone with your skills. Reach out to people in your social networks, let them know you’re looking, and you may find someone who knows of a job that’s right for you.
The more people in your personal and professional networks, the more likely it is that this strategy will be successful. To ensure you have a wide network, constantly work to get to know people in your industry — even when you’re gainfully employed and not looking for work. That way, when the time comes that you need a job, you have tons of people to reach out to.
If you’re already involved in a job search, stepping up your networking is a good idea. And if you’ve applied for work at a company you’re particularly excited about, consider connecting on LinkedIn with others who work in similar positions in the company. Messaging someone directly whom you don’t know at all probably won’t get you far, but see if you have any secondary connections who could introduce you. Or find out if those employees are in any LinkedIn groups you could join to get to know them. Once you have something in common, you have your “in” to reach out.
Close to half of all hiring managers have passed over a candidate because the applicant demonstrated no knowledge of the company during the interview process. You don’t want your interview derailed because you don’t what the organization does. You need to know about the business to ask informed questions, and also to be sure you’re highlighting the right skills.
To find out what you need to know, spend some time on the company’s website learning about its mission, the organization, and its operations. See if the company or any employees have a blog or have published articles about their work, and look for press write-ups about recent successes the company has had. The more you know, the better your chances of impressing the interviewer with your interest.
At every interview, difficult questions are inevitable. Be prepared to answer them with ease so you come across as able to think well on your feet.
Some of the most common questions candidates struggle to answer include questions about weaknesses, why you’ve left a past job, where you want your career to go, or what you didn’t like about your last position.
When you prepare answers, always put a positive spin on things. Never mention that you hated your old company or criticize your past boss. Instead focus on the future and explain why you’re excited your career can grow. You also don’t want to give trite answers that are obviously fake. No one’s weakness is that they just work too hard. Use a question about your weaknesses to explain a challenge you actually had to overcome so you come across as a genuine person — and then explain how you triumphed over those weaknesses and what you learned.
Around 1/3 of employers have described bad posture as an interview turnoff, so think about how you come across physically during the interview. You also want to avoid fidgeting, playing with objects on the table, twirling your hair, and crossing your arms.
Your body language should project confidence, which means sitting up straight, making eye contact, and leaning neither too far back nor too far forward. Sit back in your chair, keep your spine aligned with it, put your feet on the ground, and use occasional hand gestures while speaking to come across as engaged and excited about the position but not overeager. Practice your posture in front of a mirror at home if you’re not sure how you’re coming across or if you need to get more comfortable with not slouching.
Finally, when an interviewer asks you questions, use the chance to provide specific examples of your talents and abilities. You don’t want to leave the hiring manager guessing about whether you have the skills you claim. Have specific anecdotes to show how you helped your past company grow and thrive.
Take these steps to make your job search a success
By making sure you’ve customized your application materials and made the right connections, you can maximize the chances of landing an interview. Once you’re meeting with the hiring manager, the research and prep work you’ve done should help you make a stellar impression. Showing you’re the right candidate by being specific about your achievements will hopefully seal the deal, and you’ll have an amazing new career in no time at all.
Article written by Christy Bieber and originally posted on fool.com/careers