New York - A successful job search is built on three basic components: focus, definition and persistence.
To succeed, you must narrow the search to a specific type of job, define skills and accomplishments that set you apart from the pack, and keep at it until landing the job you want.
"Candidates must distinguish themselves from the mass of similarly qualified people," says Ted Warren, president of Strategic Resources in Bellevue, Wash. "Working with a recruiter, the candidate must identify and quantify accomplishments. It's not enough to say you were vice president of sales and marketing for XYZ Corp.--you've got to tell the prospective employer what you've accomplished, how you accomplished it and what you can do for them. Be prepared to back things up with facts and figures."
The smart candidate works with at least two top recruiters in his field. This won't be a problem, because the best recruiters expect their clients to work with at least one other headhunter. Always be upfront with your recruiters and disclose who is conducting a search on your behalf. If nothing else, this will stoke the competitive fires and work to your advantage. Failure to do so will cast you as less than forthright and is likely to get your résumé kicked to the bottom of the stack.
"Putting all your eggs in one basket is a major no-no," says David Lyman, a partner in Schall, Lyman & Co. in Minneapolis. "No matter how big the search firm, you won't have access to all the relevant companies in your field. At the same time, don't wait until the last minute to establish a relationship with your recruiter. If you land a job through another recruiter, tell us--it's all part of building an ongoing relationship."
Research prospective recruiters the way you'd scope out a prospective employer. Know the recruiter's specialty, and take the time to learn his or her name before e-mailing or dropping your résumé in the mail. Letters addressed "Dear Recruiter" will be read quickly, but are unlikely to be remembered and are almost certain to end up at the bottom of the pile of résumé.
"Do your homework before contacting recruiters," says Bart Heres, general manager at Management Recruiters of Atlanta Windward. "I get a large number of calls from people whose background and skills don't have any relationship to my practice. They probably got my name out of the phone book but didn't check my specialty. I refer such callers to the company's Web site to find a recruiter in their space."
Your cover letter and résumé should be direct and understated--and addressed to a specific recruiter. Don't exaggerate your accomplishments, and always give credit to team members and subordinates at your current or former jobs. Fudging your educational background is the unpardonable sin in any job search and a firing offense at many companies. You can bet that top recruiters will check all claimed degrees and advanced training, because they don't want to waste their time with a fraud.
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