Is your New Year’s resolution to find a new job? While the economy may be showing signs of stability, dipping your toe into the job market can still be a scary thought. To help this year’s job seekers improve the odds of finding a company that will be a good fit, below are several tips from HR and recruiting experts on how to make smart and more informed decisions when it comes to deciding where to apply.
Consider what you want first. Many job seekers start their searches by asking, “Which companies are hiring?” It’s a valid question, but first consider where, specifically, you might want to work. Some job openings are never advertised, and by applying to a company that interests you even before you know of an opening there, you’ve given yourself an edge. For example, if you’re a graphic designer who loves cycling, think about whether there’s a nearby cycling or sporting goods company that might be hiring design staff. Demonstrating passion for a field or industry will make you stand out. – Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director, Robert Half
Don’t assume the job location listed is the only place you can do the work. Mobile working has become the new normal – it’s not the exception. More and more companies offer virtual offices and work shifting to incentivize their employees. Job websites often require that companies list a location for each position, but companies that have adopted flexible work styles may be open to hiring the right person wherever he or she is. Look for cutting-edge employers, and be ready to demonstrate that you can be dynamic and productive anywhere. – Brandy Fulton, VP, HR Operations, Citrix
Look for a company that needs your skill set, rather than looking for an existing vacancy that you could possibly do. The best jobs are ones where you can truly help the company with your skills. If you can demonstrate that in your contacts with recruiters and hiring managers, you’ll have better luck in the job hunt. – Suzanne Lucas, EvilHRLady
Consider what kind of work arrangement really fits your life. In this day and age, the traditional on-site full-time job is only one kind of professional arrangement. Depending on what you want for your work-life balance, consider freelance, part-time and flexible jobs, or telecommuting options. Finding a job that really fits your professional goals and your personal ones is much more likely to be a long-term success. – Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and Founder, FlexJobs.com
Have conversations with those ‘in the know’ before you apply. Before applying at a particular company, try stretching and lifting beyond your job-search comfort zone. Make uncomfortable phone calls, go on informational interviews that warm up your conversation engine, and volunteer your time/expertise at professional/industry associations or within charitable groups that employ influential volunteers with whom you want to connect. The more information you gather up front about a job and company, the more convinced you’ll be that the next opportunity will be a good fit. – Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Chief Career Writer and Partner, CareerTrend
Let the business journals be your guide. Your city’s business journals, most of which are online now, can be a rich source of information about companies that are hiring, since they often report events such as when a firm has just secured venture capital or is otherwise positioning itself for growth. Once you identify a firm that may be hiring, send your resume swiftly, and use your network to try to get a meeting with the hiring manager. Follow the company’s social media feeds too, so you can keep pace with new developments and get to know more about the firm’s culture. – Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director, Robert Half
Embrace new technology. Technology is important in our daily lives and it doesn’t look like it will be less important in 2013. Therefore, job candidates should look for companies who are embracing new technology and understand the importance of being tech-savvy. This might mean a company with a great social media presence or a company utilizing video interviews to connect with candidates in the hiring process. – Josh Tolan, CEO, Spark Hire
Evaluate industry outlook. Look for an industry that continues to innovate and grow. Are companies in the industry releasing new products, resources or services? Are there several companies in the industry with plans to hire or open new offices? What do analysts and investors say about the industry and where it’s headed? When evaluating where to apply, research is key. Go online and read the latest news, find analyst reports that speak to the future of the industry, and check out national and regional labor market information to see expected progression of the industry for the next 10-20 years. In addition, research company reviews on Glassdoor at several companies in the industry and see what clues employees offer about the future direction of the industry. – Amanda Lachapelle, HR & Talent Acquisition Executive, Glassdoor
Go beyond the surface. Job postings are like employer’s wish lists – they list out all the ideal qualifications they want, while presenting themselves in the best light. It’s your job to find out what it is really like to work at that company and to learn more about the environment, the position and the industry. Look up trade journals, competitors, similar jobs, salary for the position, and research employee reviews at the company. – Lisa K. McDonald, Career Coach-Strategist, Career Polish, Inc.
Evaluate the culture. Is there a lot of interaction among employees at the office or is it a fairly quiet? Will you have a lot of structure or will you have freedom to be creative? Is the work environment filled with cubes, offices or an open floor plan? Assess a company’s culture and work environment before you apply and keep in mind the dynamics that will set you up for success. It’s a company’s culture that can often make or break how satisfied you are at work, so it’s important to find the right fit. – Amanda Lachapelle, HR & Talent Acquisition Executive, Glassdoor
What other tips should job seekers consider when evaluating where to apply for a job?