5 Surprising Elements of an Effective Job Search

Want to know the secret to an effective job search?  Here it is: There is no secret – at least not one that works for everybody.

Are there best practices?  Absolutely, and you probably already know most of them.  Are there wrong ways to go about it?  Yes, and they’re pretty obvious, too.  But if anyone tells you that the secret to getting a job is “doing X to your resume” or “doing Y with your LinkedIn account,” they’re missing a critical point – which is that every candidate is different and therefore needs to take a different approach.

After many years of coaching and placing clients, this idea of job search customization has become the cornerstone of my philosophy.  I believe the most important thing a job seeker can do is play to his or her own strengths.  The sooner they accept this, the faster they can get their job search on the right track – and the more likely they are to land that dream role.

While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach, there are a number of key elements that I believe are critical to any effective job search.  Here are my five big ones:

1.  Know thyself.
Since conducting an effective job search requires a customized approach, your strategy should start with you.  What’s your personality?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  What has worked and not worked for you in your career and/or history of job hunting?

Take the interview process, for example.  There are dozens of frameworks out there designed to help people ace the interview (one that I like and use with many clients is the CAR, or Context, Action, Result method).  But while an introverted candidate may do well with this structured, rules-based approach, one of my more gregarious clients might use the same method and come across as inauthentic.  If you know you sound more convincing when you’re talking candidly, you might want to ignore these various frameworks and just speak from the heart.

2.  Failure is your friend.
An effective job search is all about rejection.  This is a tough pill to swallow for a lot of my clients – smart, talented people who aren’t used to hearing the word “no.”  But since it usually takes quite a few “no’s” to get to that one “yes,” it’s better to take that rejection and use it constructively rather than let it get you down.  Remember: the goal is to know yourself well enough to customize your approach.  And the fastest way to learn what works is to try some things, fail, then course-correct.

Of course, you can only course-correct if you know what you’re doing wrong.  If you’re given the courtesy of a rejection email or phone call, I highly recommend asking for feedback at that time.  Sometimes they’ll give it to you, sometimes they won’t – but if you don’t ask, you’re guaranteed to be left in the dark.  It’s also key to have one or more trusted mentors in your life (here are some of my tips for building this support network).  It takes time to cultivate these relationships, but during a job search they show their value in spades as they can help you identify areas to improve ahead of the next opportunity.

3.  It’s not about the resume.
When I meet with new clients, often the first thing they ask me to do is review their resumes.  Because the resume is something candidates can control, they tend to place a lot of importance on it.  But is it the thing that’s going to get you the job, or even the interview?  Nine times out of ten, the answer is no.  If you’re conducting a job search the right way, placing more importance on networking vs. monitoring the open positions out there, your resume shouldn’t actually be your “way into” a company in the first place.

What’s more, a “good” resume is very much in the eye of the beholder.  The same resume can look great to one potential employer and terrible to another.  That’s not to say resume doesn’t matter, but rather that job seekers shouldn’t spend 90% of their time on it and then expect to see results.  A resume should be free of mistakes, aesthetically pleasing and make your function pop – beyond that, your time is better spent in other ways.

4.  Be a square peg.
One of the worst things a job seeker can do is present themselves as something they’re not.  I see this a lot with candidates who have broad backgrounds – they think they need to check all the boxes on a potential employer’s list, so they create a story that’s somewhat disingenuous because they think it’s what the employer wants to hear.  But the truth is, companies can usually see right through this.  In fact, they’re more likely to hire the person who doesn’t exactly fit the job description but who comes across as genuine and passionate.

5.  Call it quits.
The best advice I can give anyone about their job search is to give it an end-date and stick to it – even if they haven’t found a job by that time.  Understandably, this is also the piece of advice that elicits the most raised eyebrows.

It may sound counterintuitive to halt your search before you’ve found a position, but this approach is key for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, a job search with no end in sight is a recipe for burnout.  But more importantly, you need an opportunity to evaluate your progress and fix the things that aren’t working.  I always recommend my clients limit their job search to four or six weeks, take a couple of weeks to regroup, then dive back in.  Essentially, a job search should be a series of these 4-6 week campaigns – with you honing your skills more and more each time.


Now that you know my job search philosophy, the next step is to dive into tactics.  I’ll be sharing my six-week job search strategy here on the SoFi blog over the coming weeks.  As always, feel free to submit questions to me using the comments field below. and I’ll do my best to address them in future posts.

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