By Beth Braccio Hering
Job hunting boils down to finding an opportunity and convincing the employer you are exactly what he needs. Are you doing both effectively? Here, experts offer 10 suggestions for boosting success.
1. Develop a top-notch elevator pitch
Craft a succinct speech that eloquently conveys what you are looking for and what you can offer. "Practice this pitch in unlikely places, such as the grocery checkout line," says Cindy Hyman, associate director of alumni career programs at the University of Denver. "It will help you gain confidence so you're ready when you're at networking events."
2. Look for connections
The shaky economy has virtually eliminated job-search stigma, so go ahead and contact that friend of a friend on LinkedIn or let your dad introduce you to his golf partner. Lavie Margolin, author of "Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers," says, "Anyone who works for the company and can submit your résumé is more likely to yield a positive response for you than submitting your résumé cold."
3. Get out of the house and meet people
While computers are an important part of the modern job hunt, don't spend all day in front of your screen. Face-to-face connection is still vital. "Set a goal of meeting or networking with a certain number of people each week and stick to it," Hyman advises.
4. Follow through on leads
"Think of yourself as a salesperson, and treat each job opening that you find as a lead," Margolin says. "You have found a company that has a job that is a fit for you. What about competitors to that organization? Most likely, they would have a similar role at their company as well. Perhaps it is not vacant at the moment, but it is a lead nonetheless." Likewise, it pays to regularly check back in with people and companies you approached previously, because business needs change.
5. Target your cover letter
Margolin recommends thinking of the cover letter as an advertisement to get attention. "Spend time writing a cover letter that will appeal to the reader as opposed to a generic message where you have only changed the name of the company and the job title. Emphasize why you are a fit for that job as opposed to any job."
6. Do your homework
With so much information readily available, there is no excuse for coming to an interview unprepared. Start by perusing the company's website, but then learn more about the organization and the industry as a whole -- and look for opportunities during the interview to show how your abilities match this work environment. Matthew Randall, executive director for the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, also notes that preparation shows you aren't going to waste the interviewers' time with questions that could have been answered easily beforehand.
7. Show, don't tell
Anyone can say he is a "team player" or an "effective communicator." "When you are discussing your qualifications, give a specific example, not just a list of qualities," says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-author of "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" and partner at the career-coaching firm SixFigureStart in New York City. "Don't say you are good with people; talk about a specific instance where you managed a team, generated consensus, worked with a difficult customer or some other people-related example with tangible results."
8. Present a consistent package
"Candidates should realize that they need to manage three different personas: an online profile that includes LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; a written persona that includes the cover letter and résumé; and an in-person persona," Randall says. "These all need to be congruent. If they don't match, that is a huge red flag for hiring managers."
9. Troubleshoot your search regularly
Occasionally, step back and evaluate what is and isn't working in your job search. Ceniza-Levine recommends examining the situation every two or three weeks. "Look at how many meetings you are getting and if these meetings are yielding good information, referrals to other people who can help and actual job interviews. If you are not getting good-quality meetings, something is wrong, and you should review your search with someone who knows the process and can pinpoint what you can change."
10. Keep an upbeat attitude
Finally, don't give off the vibe of a battle-weary job seeker. As Hyman notes, "No matter how long your job search has already taken, how many rejections you have already experienced and how disappointed you are, when you speak with potential employers -- and remember, virtually everyone you meet is a potential employer or can connect you with an employer -- you need to express a positive attitude and excitement about the new opportunity you are seeking."