Play the Job Search Odds in Your Favor

Although hiring is showing modest movement, competition in the job market remains fierce. You may need to up your game in order to stay ahead of the twenty or so other candidates whose qualifications match or exceed yours.
Now, this is not to suggest that you need to panic, or even worse, stop looking. You just need to be certain that you don’t leave any cracks in your presentation that allow others to get ahead of you. The job search is actually very much like a race. You need to over-prepare and train yourself to meet the multiple challenges you are sure to encounter along the way.
Resume & Cover Letter Preparation
Some candidates wonder if they still need a cover letter when applying to online postings. The answer is a resounding “yes.” Although hiring managers differ in how they screen resumes and cover letters, it is still accepted practice to include a letter. The letter also gives you the opportunity to highlight important accomplishments and your potential value to the employer. Think of the cover letter as a brief summary of your resume that will encourage the reader to keep reading.
The resume needs to contain the substance and details of how you achieved those amazing accomplishments. If you can help the hiring manager to envision you in the open position solving similar problems and challenges as demonstrated by your accomplishments, then you are likely to get a call for an interview!
Target Your Job Search
While it may seem counter-intuitive, one of the most damaging things you can do during your job search is to send your documents out to as many openings as possible. By taking such a general approach, you have communicated to the potential employer that any job will do. Furthermore, it suggests that there is nothing unique about your talents or the value you can provide to the company. These are the wrong messages to send, and will certainly result in your documents getting set aside.
Although trite, the job search is a bit like dating. Think of how online dating companies market their services. They emphasize matching you with someone who has similar interests, values, and goals. The same is true with companies. In order to be a valuable - and satisfied - employee, you need to share some of the same objectives as the company. Research the company to learn about their challenges and initiatives, and you will be working smarter, not harder in your job search. In addition, that kind of homework is likely to result in an interview!
Strong References
Professional references are often an after-thought for many job seekers, but they can be critical to your success. Common courtesy and business etiquette require that you obtain permission from the reference prior to giving out their name or contact information. In addition, you want to make certain they will give you the kind of reference that will keep you moving forward in the hiring process instead of being pushed aside. When you contact your references to obtain permission, use the conversation to remind them of some of the key achievements that you recall from the time you worked together. Pay close attention to the person’s responses to help you determine the type of reference you might receive from this individual. If they are hesitant, or seem lukewarm to the idea, politely thank them and move on to someone on your list who will give you a hearty endorsement.

By taking a pro-active approach to your job search and attending to every detail, you are increasing the odds of getting an interview sooner rather than later. Take charge, and win the race!