Every job-seeker knows that employers want to hire people who work hard. However, it’s very easy to unintentionally brand yourself as “lazy” when you are looking for your next job. During your job search, you are put under a microscope, as employers make quick judgments about your work ethic based on actions that may seem minor to you. If you want to stand out in a good way and be seen as hard-working and proactive, make sure you follow these 7 job search best-practices:
1. Do your homework before EVERY “test.” Treat every career conversation like an interview because every career conversation is an interview. A person recently referred to me for career advice didn’t know that I worked in the front-office for an NBA team for 5 years, or that I wrote a book on how to get your dream job. He could have learned this information before our call through a 60-second google search on my name. How motivated do you think I was to introduce him to other people I trust, given the lackluster way he approached his call with me? On the other hand, I’ve had calls with people who have referenced specific articles I’ve written when asking me for career advice. Within minutes, these people impress me. Do your homework before any informational interview, networking situation, or job interview, and have a list of intelligent questions you plan to ask. Preparation (or lack of preparation) is always very obvious, and it will be used as evidence for how you approach your work as well.
2. Always take the extra step. Always ask yourself this question during your job search: “How can I stand out in a good way from my competition?” For example, instead of writing, “References available upon request” at the bottom of your resume (which is like writing “willing to meet with you for an interview”), why not just take the extra step and include a 1-page document with endorsements of your work?
3. Never hitch-hike. Every now and then, someone will come up to me after one of my job search seminars (or send me an email after the seminar) and ask me to send their resume along to people in my network. I refer to this as “hitch-hiking.” Never ask someone else to do your job search for you. Instead, ask people how you can take yourself where you want to go.
4. Use third-party endorsements. The best way to brag is to get the right people to brag for you. As much as possible, use third-party endorsements as evidence for your work ethic, character, talent, intelligence, unique value, etc. Compare these two sentences for a cover letter, and ask yourself which is more compelling:
• “One of my strengths is my excellent work ethic.”
• “John Smith, Director of Sales at XYZ Company, referred to me as ‘the hardest working sales rep’ he’s had in the last 10 years.”
5. Don’t ask questions that imply laziness. While you may be curious about a company’s official work hours or vacation/PTO policy, asking about this too early can make you look lazy. Save these sorts of questions for after you have an offer in hand.
6. Always follow-up fast. Make it your practice to follow-up immediately after any networking situation or interview. Whenever anyone gives you their time and/or advice during your job search, always send a thank you note. This is a very obvious tip that most people take for granted. Want proof? I’ve actually received thank you letters from people to thank me for sending them a thank you letter!
7. Never submit boiler-plate or unprofessional job applications. Treat the process of applying for a job as if it is the first project the employer has given you as a paid employee. Anything less than a well-written, 100% complete, error-free application will end up in the trash, especially given that employers are receiving hundreds or thousands of job applications these days. You want the employer to read your application materials and think, “Wow, this person is EXACTLY what we need.” It’s a huge turn-off to hiring managers when someone submits a cookie-cutter resume or cover letter.
Pete Leibman is the Founder and Keynote Speaker for Dream Job Academy and the Author of “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You.” His work has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN.
Special offer until July 30, 2012: Send your current resume (and a link to a job description you are interested in) to Resume@DreamJobAcademy.com. Dream Job Academy will randomly select 25 winners in July 2012 for a Confidential Resume Evaluation from Pete Leibman ($250 Value)! Make sure to include “Personal Branding Blog” in the subject line of your email.