How to Re-boot Your Job Search in 2014

By Hillary Mantis

You’re getting impatient. You’ve been looking for a job for months. It feels like your resume goes into a big black hole. You rarely even get rejection letters from employers. When you do get interviews, you never get called back.

Sound familiar? A lot of it is probably due to the still slow job market — but there may be more to the problem than that.

When I meet with students or graduates for career counseling, we are often able to pinpoint other reasons for their lack of interviews. If they‘re not getting first interviews, it could be that their resume needs revamping. When we look at their resume, we can usually make it more appealing to employers. If they are getting first interviews but not callbacks, it’s often their interviewing skills that need help.

Watch out for the following common mistakes:

If your resume is not getting you in the door:

• Once you get the resume basics down — it’s easy to read, nicely formatted, and well written — make sure that it includes action verbs. Employers don’t want to be bored. If your job description starts with “Responsibilities included” I suggest you cross that out. Go with an action verb instead. Start every phrase with a verb if possible. “Managed,” “Researched,” “Wrote,” “Initiated,” and “Developed” are examples of verbs you might use to start job descriptions. If you are still at the position, keep your verbs in the present tense.

• Focus on your accomplishments. Remember that a resume is a marketing document. It’s designed to get you interviews, not just to summarize everything you have done in former positions. Try to describe accomplishments for each position.  “Success stories” can really help you stand out when employers are reading through stacks of resumes. Initiatives you proposed, job related problems you solved, or promotions you received, are all good to write about.

If you are getting interviews, but not callbacks:

• If you consistently feel like your interview didn’t go as well as it could have, practice before your next interview. Find a trusted friend, career counselor, or career services representative at your school and do a mock interview. I’ve noticed that people often have one particular issue they would really rather avoid — sometimes it’s a low GPA, other times it’s a gap in employment. Go over your answer to that question before you go into the interview. Find a way to answer it that is as honest and positive as possible — and then move on. Try to move the interview off the subject, and back onto neutral ground.

• Focus on the positive. Like your resume, your interview answers should focus on examples of your accomplishments. What are you proud of? What did your former bosses praise you for? Did you solve any problems? Expand your responsibilities? Show initiative? Because it’s hard to think of examples during the heat of the interview, I recommend going through your resume from top to bottom the day before the interview. Pick out several examples of accomplishments from jobs or internships you have held. Chances are, you will be able to somehow work them into the interview.

I hope these quick tips will help you start to re-energize your job search this year.

Hillary Mantis

Hillary works with law students and lawyers, as well as with pre-law students. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, co-author of Jobs for Lawyers: Effective Techniques for Getting Hired in Today’s Legal Marketplace, and a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University. You can write to Hillary at altcareer@aol.com

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