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, it is important that you don’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.

> Leaving 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 be noticed as the candidate of choice.

You should examine all job ads which are meant to reach a high number of job seekers at the same time, with care. This includes large job classifieds in daily newspapers, especially if they advertise “surprisingly” normal positions. Even if the vacancy actually exists as described (and there are quite a few cases where there should be some doubt), you can guess how many other applicants you are likely to compete against. In the end, the job quickly gets awarded to someone who hasn’t even applied to the ad. So, you better be this person yourself (see next example).

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 that 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 normal application via the internet.

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?
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 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 employee first, of course.

In order to increase my chances of finding a great new job with minimal effort, I will avoid typical competitive situations as much as possible and rather use 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 best approach to your search can vary considerably. However, regardless of this, the best option is still to be approached by your future employer or appointed representatives (headhunters, agencies etc.). This is not only the most enjoyable but also the most economical way to find a new job. Additionally, it creates particularly good conditions for subsequent salary negotiations. Of course, you should nevertheless be active yourself. However, you can minimize the effort by doing everything you can to ensure that the right people can easily find you too. Nowadays this takes place almost exclusively 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., specialized offers are also available depending on the industry. For example, GULP is an excellent option for job seekers with an IT or other technical profession to quickly and easily make their own experience profile available in Germany.
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 topic. Their technical foundation should be up-to-date so that the content can easily be found by search engines. Incidentally, variants like that offer the advantage of being able to present considerably more personal content than in a CV.

In this context, the use of appropriate keywords is an important factor to success.

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

> 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 the 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 actually 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.