photo  (1)by Dave Crisp

Job search has one aim - to speed up the trial and error learning curve we all go through the first time between jobs. Knowing a few good shortcuts and a few common errors can help. After 25 years of hiring and coaching people on job search, some things stand out.

1. Networking produces 80% of jobs - but it's not 'who you know' as much as 'who you know vaguely'  - you don't need long with any one person. Getting word out very briefly but widely is almost always more effective than having a few long conversations, though that doesn't hurt.  Answering ads (now mostly electronic job postings) still accounts for about 20% of hires at lower levels and so may be worth doing, but never for the majority of your time.


2. Linked In is a form of networking for the majority of what you do on line and you can search people to approach at organizations to find those people as well as tailor your resume information. Don't just post a resume, though, it's more for highlights in order of importance, not always just chronologically. There are lots of help resources for using Linked In effectively including help on the site. Keep learning as you go! A paid account for the duration of job search may be worth it. Adding your Linked In URL to a business card is like handing out a resume. Be sure to add a tag line identifying what you do, too.

3. For electronic applications, have a resume that reads well in “RTF” (Rich Text) not just “DOC” or PDF. That way it can be copied easily without losing formatting and sent in email as well as being attached so if attachments are screened out or can't be opened, the recipient can still see your information. Be aware margins and fancy lines and boxes around paragraphs are first to get out of alignment, especially right margins so leave wider margins than you would ordinarily. A free or paid 'clipboard extender' program (try searching that on Google - I like free Ditto these days) can ease endless copy and paste operations required to fill in many online  application pages by storing your typical 'pastes.'

4. Try using a third page on your resume with the header “Appendix - Additional areas of experience” where you simply list all the acronyms, trade terms, jargon, etc., associated with your experience in case an automated resume reader is set to look for specific terms and flags only resumes with those in them. Don't make the main body longer than two pages, and make it look uncluttered. People only read the first six words or so in any bullet or paragraph, so 'tweet' style is best - all short items ideally with concrete numbers you achieved - sales, savings, time reductions, number supervised, etc!

5. When emailing a resume, make your email subject “Resume for [Name of Job].” My email resume file is crammed with emails headed “My resume” and I have to open each to recall whose was for CFO or VP HR, etc.

6. It really doesn't matter whether your networking excuse is asking for advice (can I get your opinion on the industry - the 'Information Interview') or offering to share something, but don't ignore their needs completely. The key is to strive for reciprocity. If you inform lots of people, leave some interesting information and make it easy to remember what you do, they'll pass your name and link on when others ask if they know someone in your field.

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7. Some individuals will network, some won't. The only way to know is to ask for 'information' or 'advice' if they work in a company or industry that interests you. If five of 20 you ask will talk, you're doing well. Don't worry about the ones that won't. Work on target companies; others will appear. People love to give 'advice.' It often pulls them in. It's non-threatening, quick to do and useful to them as well. They become more of an information hub for others using whatever you share. Many people see that as a value to them without that awkward ask, “what can I do for you?”

8. The key to networking is the 10-second 'elevator speech' (not 30 seconds any more - attention is precious and shorter than ever.) It sets the tone for the four elements of the search. The 10 second speech should be exciting enough for them to ask a question for more information; it should set tone and core ideas for the cover letter, which should set tone and ideas for the resume, which should set tone and ideas for the job interview. Each should 'tell the same story' in progressively longer (but still as short as possible) format. If you can leave the recipient wanting more, they will ask and then you have hooked a real interested person. There's a game - 'write a book in six words' - a good way to think of how you need to tailor all your communication in job search - very short, but intriguing, interesting possibilities.

9. Here's the paradoxical core concept. LESS is remembered from longer intros, answers, explanations, descriptions of what you want and why you left previous jobs! People can recall only one thing you want and vaguely why you're qualified so keep to one of each in networking. You want them to keep these in mind, so make it completely clear and easy. They will ask if you can do other things, so you don't need to worry that you're cutting yourself off from opportunities. If asked 'why did you leave,' two sentences are enough starting with, 'I loved [abc], but was hoping to expand and opportunities just weren't going to be there - now I have an opportunity [with your great company].' This is pretty much always true of any situation with minor variations - remember they're more interested in seeing you aren't bent out of shape by events than any detailed reason, and moving on after a single sentence says that clearly.

Champion senior business man

10. So an example:  my 'elevator core' and tag line is: Senior HR Troubleshooter Who Triples Productivity. My opening teaser:  “I kid that I spend all my time looking for trouble with people.” When asked why: “Because that's where I really make a difference - turn it to super productivity and create those types of cultures.” The key is to find a teaser that people will ask more about, without making it sound overly artificial.


by Dave Crisp, former SVP HR, Hudson's Bay Company,