The best job search: Smart, not hard!

Tips for a smarter job search

On the following pages, you’ll find the optimal approach to job applications. You create the best basis for this with the right approach to the prior search for job vacancies or potential employers. This is why I’ve compiled the most important advice on it here first. If the topic is of interest to you in general, but not currently, I recommend that you still take the time to read this page now. You will immediately understand why.

> Lifelong job search

Don’t worry, I’m not going to threaten you with long-term unemployment here. I have based this heading on the often-quoted concept of “lifelong learning”. By that, I not only mean that your job search will be much easier if you prepare yourself ahead of time. It is even more advisable to keep an eye on the topic still after transferring to a new position. For example, this allows you to attend necessary training courses that increase your chances of taking a next great step in your career later, in time.

For this purpose, it may be worth staying in touch with former colleagues, knowing who is moving from which former company to which new employer for which reasons, and ideally, what the new salaries are like. Who has successfully become self-employed in the industry and how? Who got lost in their decisions and why? What does the international development look like? What is going on in the group? How are other medium-sized companies in the region performing?

Those examples were only intended to illustrate the approach in principle. You will certainly already be familiar with the specific questions relevant to your situation. In any case, you mustn’t start researching the answers at the last minute.

Even if I am not planning to change my job for the time being, I will still make use of all suitable opportunities coming along to prepare for my next job search.

> Before you get started: Define the focus for your search!

Another big mistake many job seekers make is to actively search for open positions without having developed a clear focus for it first. This mistake usually renders the resulting job applications unsuccessful. In this case, even carefully crafted applications often receive no reply at all. Tragically, those applicants affected are rarely aware of this cause and keep wasting more and more energy on activities that are destined to fail.

In this context, you need to know that in most cases a vacant position is filled with the candidate whose personal characteristics match the job profile best. Here, it is often the small differences compared to the other (suitable) candidates that decide on acceptance or rejection. Therefore, if you do not pay enough attention to the small but unique advantages of your current profile of professional skills and experiences in your search for suitable positions and their representation in your job applications, you risk constant defeat even if you are perfectly qualified.

So, do not get busy applying for jobs whose description seem to match your professional background at large, throwing a random selection of past work experiences at the other side, but start with identifying the most important relevant special features, large AND small, that are likely to distinguish your profile from others beyond the required core competence. With those insights in mind, you can then specifically search and apply for open positions where your unique profile will stand out from the other applications. Of course, not only your application documents but also any other communication with the hiring company must consistently focus on those highlights that make the difference.

Following this approach will not only save you a lot of time by significantly reducing the number of unsuccessful applications. It also increases your chances of getting offered good jobs more frequently because the offers correspond better with your experience and interests.

So, for example, don’t just look for open positions for logistics clerks. Based on your personal profile, you should specifically look for jobs that involve not only logistics but also aspects of Eastern European business, the specifics of the food industry, and advanced SAP user skills.

Of course, you can pursue different types of jobs at the same time. That’s not a problem at all but in such a case, you need to define a specific focus for each of them separately and tailor your application strategies and materials accordingly.

Before I start searching for open positions, I will develop a clear understanding of the uniqueness of my professional profile. After that, I will focus my job search and applications on positions where I am likely to stand out as a candidate because of that.

> Avoid the masses

This motto should already guide you during your search and not just during the application process. The more you go with the flow, the more difficult it is to stand out as the candidate of choice.

Therefore, all places with job listings that a large number of job seekers have access to, especially the ones on the internet, should only be considered with care. Even a lot of those open positions get actually filled with candidates who have never applied to the public advertisement. So, you better be this person yourself (see my examples below and also read the page “Discover the giant hidden job market”).

Before you reach for the usual but “impersonal” tools as your last resort in your job search, you should have exhausted the many possibilities of more or less direct and personal contact. As a rule, several steps are often necessary until you arrive at the right place. But the effort is well worth it, because direct contact makes it possible for you – hardly noticeable for the other side – to reduce the comparability of your profile with those of other candidates’ enormously (a well-known marketing rule). This makes it much easier to showcase your strengths and cleverly hide your weaknesses than it would be possible, for example, by submitting a typical job application online.

Didn’t an acquaintance at the gym tell you about an interesting position in the department next door? Doesn’t your mother’s bowling friend’s husband work for your industry’s technology leader? And didn’t the sales guy, whose great product was unfortunately “one size too big” for your current employer in the end, mumble something about two vacancies in R&D? Research and focus on following leads like these.
I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t politely contact an unknown person whose LinkedIn profile identifies him or her as a particularly suitable contact. This can also be a regular or former employee, in many cases being even the better option for a first contact. Many people are willing to help in these situations and more and more companies are paying their employees attractive bonuses for successfully recruiting from their circle of acquaintances.

At the end of the day, the closer and more exclusive your connections to the actual decision-makers are, the higher your chances of a positive decision and a good remuneration package. The word “actual” is important here. After all, although the head of the department may officially decide whether to hire a new employee, he or she may have placed the actual selection in the hands of someone else. In such a case, you have to convince this person first, of course.

To increase my chances of finding a great new job with minimal effort, I will avoid typical competitive situations as much as possible and focus on using more creative communication channels.

> Work efficiently

Invest your time and money into your job search wisely. At the end of the day, all you need is ONE great job offer. A higher number may be flattering but is likely to have come at the price of wasted time. A spot landing is of course hardly possible, but you should always keep the principle of profitability in mind. If you do not, you run the additional risk of wasting your resources to the extent that the quality of the selected vacancies, as well as the one of your applications, will decline.

I continue to hear about people who have sent out “more than 100 applications” and complain bitterly about the lack of response. In such cases, several mistakes have been made. With this kind of approach, logically the effort is mainly directed at the quantity and not the quality of the applications. And who wants to hire an applicant like that? But let’s assume the quality is even right. Then it would still be a mistake to not stop after the first 20 failures and revise the present assumptions.

When searching for jobs, I will not be industrious but rather pay attention to using my resources efficiently and to getting effective results.

> Let them find you

Depending on the industry and the type of position you are looking for, the optimal approach to make your job search efficient and successful can vary considerably.

The best way to get a great new job, however, is always the one where prospective employers or appointed representatives (headhunters, recruitment agencies, etc.) make the first move. This is not only the most enjoyable but also the most efficient way for you. On top of that, it creates particularly good conditions for subsequent salary negotiations. Of course, you should nevertheless become and stay active yourself. However, you can minimize this effort by doing everything you can to ensure that the right people can easily find you too.

Nowadays, this takes place to a great extent on the internet:

For most professions, a meaningful LinkedIn profile or equivalent is an absolute must. In addition to broad-based career portals such as StepStone, Monster, etc., industry-specialized platforms are often also available. For example, GULP is an excellent option for job seekers with an IT or other technical background to quickly and easily make their personal experience profile visible to recruiters in German-speaking countries.
I’ve also had very good experiences with professional employment agencies such as HAYS.
It may sometimes also be worth the effort to create a website with your professional profile or a blog on your own specialized topics. Their technical platforms should be up to date so that the content can be found by search engines easily. Thus, you can present considerably more convincing content than in a CV / résumé.

In all of this, the use of appropriate keywords is a decisive factor in the desired outcome!

Before I actively go on the lookout for open positions myself, I will first make it as easy as possible for prospective employers to discover my profile and availability right away when searching for suitable candidates.

I discuss the matter in depth on the page “Replace your job search with a job magnet”.

> Remain grounded in your dreams

Here is something important I want you to know. I believe that you should always strive to find the job of your dreams. Of course, compromises also have their place in professional life. But there is no reason why you should immediately lower your expectations when things become a bit difficult. With creativity, you can overcome a multitude of challenges.

On October 9th, Ms. Caroline B. from Regensburg wrote to me:

»Michael helped me to see that I have plenty to offer to new friends and contacts – it’s just finding the best way to present myself that is essential.«

At the same time, your goals should be realistic, especially in terms of your current job search. If even you can’t think of any good reasons yourself, why you might be considered for a particular position – I am not talking about how to communicate them, that’s something else – then you will probably have to take an intermediate step in your career first.

For my job search, I will have a clear idea of what my (current) dream job is. This goal will be realistic and this is why I won’t give up when things get difficult.

PS: Is it all about the money?

From time to time I hear about cases of the following kind, which I find unfortunate. Someone decides to give up an otherwise very satisfactory position for financial reasons and accepts a more lucrative offer from a new employer. When handing in his resignation to the old company, he learns that his boss would not only have liked to keep him but would have also agreed to a significant salary increase. But most employees then shy away from trying to undo what they have already agreed to with the new company. So, if the new position later turns out to be far less satisfactory than the old one, they end up paying a high price for their higher salary.

If the starting point in your case happens to be the same and your job search is primarily motivated by financial factors, then at least give your current superior a chance. You can do this easily by informing him or her in a friendly but open manner about your dissatisfaction with your current salary. How to discuss this matter exactly can be found on the pages about salary negotiations. You don’t have to mention the “threatening” alternative of leaving. If your boss is truly interested in keeping you employed, this “threat” will certainly come to mind.

If I am only dissatisfied with my salary, I will first give my current employer the chance to resolve this matter in my favor before embarking on a career change.