There is no magic formula for finding a job. A variety of techniques and strategies may be employed, and success varies with the individual. This page discusses approaches that can enhance your job search and highlights the practices that are most effective. The more intensive and diversified your job search is, and the smarter you are about using these techniques to your best advantage, the more likely you are to find golden opportunities. If you are applying for faculty jobs, see the section on faculty hiring.
Online job boards may seem like the easiest way to apply for jobs nationwide; however, this is a very competitive search strategy, since most people use this approach. Applicants using job boards have an estimated success rate of four to seven percent. Additionally, up to 80 percent of jobs are never posted online, so you will miss out on the hidden job market.
- Use regional, national, and international sources and specialized sites.
- Always include a cover letter tailored to the ad.
- Be flexible; respond to positions that may be close, if not exactly, what you want.
- Do your research. Send your materials to the person indicated in the ad, but also send them to a person in the department where you are interested in working in order to potentially uncover unadvertised opportunities.
Uploading Your Résumé Online
Posting your résumé online makes it available to potential employers seeking qualified candidates. Whether you choose to feature your résumé on a professional website or through a service like LinkedIn, keep the following in mind:
- Organizations generally use keyword searches to find résumés that interest them, so make sure you include important terms.
- Posting to such sites makes your personal information widely available to others.
Career fairs are an opportunity to meet face-to-face with a potential employer.
- Prepare by researching companies and practicing your introduction.
- Gather information about the company and share your résumé.
- You often have only one or two minutes to make a positive impression.
- A list of upcoming career fairs is available here.
Search firms, also known as headhunters, executive recruiters, or agencies, work for specific organizations that are seeking to hire employees.
- Search firms have success rates that range from 5 to 28 percent, with managerial and salaried jobs falling at the lower end of this range.
- Search firms should always be paid by the employer and not by you, and they should never have you sign a contract.
- Be selective when you are working with search firms; use only reputable firms and do not send your résumé to every recruiter in the area to prevent multiple submissions of your résumé to the same organization.
Cold calling is the process of approaching organizations and inquiring if they are hiring for positions that interest you. Since you do not know whether a job is actually available, you need to contact as many organizations as possible to uncover these hidden opportunities.
Although cold calling is research and labor intensive, it is a viable way to conduct a job search. Following up in person or by telephone can boost your chances of success considerably. Cold calls followed by personal contact can lead to a success rate as high as 69 percent. If you put forth the time and energy, it's very possible to land a job using these methods.
- Contact employers directly with a résumé and a personalized letter to inquire about employment possibilities.
- Use this approach to tap into their hidden job market.
- Start by identifying organizations that interest you and obtain the name and address of the manager who hires for your area of interest.
Phone and Email Campaigns
- Conduct a phone or email campaign to inquire whether an organization is currently hiring.
- Can reduce the time you spend sending out unsolicited résumés and cover letters.
- Be careful, however, that the person you speak to on the phone or via email really has the knowledge and authority to tell you if the company is hiring.
- Contact as many organizations as possible to determine their vacancies, and follow up with a personalized letter and résumé if you are told that they are hiring.
Knocking on Doors
- Believe it or not, it is possible to find a job by knocking on doors.
- Although sometimes impossible to do, it is incredibly effective to personally visit organizations where you would like to work (especially small businesses).
- Try to talk directly to the person making hiring decisions, which is easier in small organizations.
It's not what you know, it's who you know! Networking is the number one way of finding a job, and according to recent estimates, nearly 70 percent of jobs are obtained this way. When you couple that number with the fact that many other job search techniques involve some degree of networking, it emerges as perhaps the single most important thing you can do to find a job.
How can networking help me?
Many people will tell you that they landed their first job through a contact rather than a job posting. Networking can help you in two major ways.
- Most job opportunities are never posted to the outside world. By telling everyone within your network that you are seeking a job, you are automatically opening yourself up to the "hidden" job market. Ask everyone in your network to let you know if they know of any job opportunities in your desired field, and have them spread the word to everyone within their network. All of the sudden, you have potentially hundreds of people keeping their eyes and ears peeled for job opportunities for you!
- Employers are much more likely to interview someone who is recommended to them by someone they trust than to hire someone about whom they know nothing. If you find an organization you are interested in working for, activate your network! Start asking everyone you know if they know a manager in the ABC Department of the XYZ Company. Even if none of your contacts know such a person, it is still probable that someone within their network knows such a person.
For more information on how to start networking, consult our page on making connections in the job search.
The majority of vacant positions are filled internally. In fact, most jobs are never even posted to the outside world, and many employers would not consider hiring someone about whom they know nothing. Hiring someone from the inside can be done in many ways: by promoting a current full-time or part-time employee, by hiring former full-time or part-time workers, or by hiring interns, volunteers, contract workers, or temporary workers. Employers like this strategy because it is very low-risk: they already have an established relationship and know the quality of the work of the person they are hiring.
Ways to Gain Experience
- Pursue an internship to learn more about a particular field and simultaneously gain valuable work experience.
- Find a part-time job in a company or industry that interests you. For example, if you want to work in banking or finance, a part-time job as a bank teller would provide you with meaningful experience and help you develop contacts.
- Shadow someone in the workplace to learn about the field and to see a typical day.
- Volunteer for an organization to gain some experience and exposure. Nonprofit and government agencies are usually anxious for extra help and often can't afford to pay for it.
- Try doing some paid or unpaid consulting, projects, or even some administrative or secretarial work for an organization that interests you.
Internships and volunteer work are great ways to gain experience in a different field, develop credibility, demonstrate your commitment to the field, and transition into the nonacademic world.