At The Doyle Group, we work hard to train IT professionals on the best practices to implement during a job search. We recently presented at events, including Jeffcon, on the subject: “From Search to Offer: The Dos and Don’ts.” Jeffcon is a conference hosted by the Jeffco Public Schools IT Department, with the purpose of informing, engaging, and providing growth opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in IT.
While Jeffcon is an event offered to Jeffco high school students, the content presented really applies to all job seekers. Here are some of the highlights to keep in mind when it’s time to search for your next role:
How To Search for Your Dream Job
- Define your principles. The first, most fundamental step you can take in your job search is to clearly define what you’re looking for in a position. What are your values and priorities? Do they include training opportunities, career advancement, cultural fit, stability, or high compensation? When you clearly understand what you’re looking for, you’ll have the integrity to say “no” to opportunities that would take you away from those goals.
- Examine your past. What factors made you the happiest in your last position? What situations do you want to avoid at all costs? Think about aspects of a job that matter the most. These might include commute time, the size of the company, managerial style, opportunities for promotion, and so forth.
- Use your resources. Once you’ve clearly defined your principles and internalized lessons learned from past jobs, use the resources at your disposal to begin your search in earnest. Job boards are a good place to start, especially if they specialize in your desired field (e.g., an IT-specific job board). Experienced recruiters and firms like The Doyle Group can also prove to be invaluable assets. In addition, research potential employers on their official website, and on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Finally, put out the word that you’re looking for work to your personal network: family members, friends, and former colleagues.
How To Get From Application to Offer
Write an exceptional cover letter.
Many applicants neglect their opportunity to write an engaging cover letter. However, your cover letter can leave a favorable “first impression” on your target employer. It can demonstrate how well you communicate, and what your communication style is. You can also use it to start “selling yourself” to a company by explaining why you would be a good fit for the open position. In short, a well-written cover letter can turn a “maybe” into a definite interview.
Do your research before the interview.
Try to find out who will be conducting the interview, and what the interview format will be. Is it a one-on-one session, or a panel discussion? Will it be in-person, via phone, or over a video-conferencing platform? Will there be screen-sharing involved? As you do your research, make sure to examine at least the company’s home or “About Us” page on their website to get a sense of their culture and values. Also, it may be wise to look up some reviews of the employer on sites like Glassdoor or Vault.
Turn the interview into a discussion.
Try to make the interview as conversational as possible. Relax. Have fun with it. Realize that your skill set may not be what the company needs at the moment – and they may not be a good fit for you either! At some point, you could even ask the interviewer: “What skills, abilities, and attitude would make for a successful hire?” Above all, show that you’re open to continued learning. Shawn Rhoades, Director of IT Service Desk and Client Support at Jeffco, says that when he looks to hire, he seeks candidates who show “an eagerness to learn, possess the ability to communicate during the interview, and demonstrate an interest in technology.”
Watch your choice of words.
Use good judgment in your messaging. For example, using “we” in a response can either indicate that you’re a team player, or that you had to rely on others to finish a project. Using “I” can position yourself as a self-starter, or imply that you’re not very collaborative. The point is, you want to convey not only your skill set, but also your willingness to function as part of a team.
Use the STAR method when answering questions.
The STAR method stands for Situation, Task, Action, Response. It’s a great framework for answering open-ended interview questions about circumstances you faced in previous jobs, and how you handled them. You may want to have a few STAR answers “in your back pocket” before starting the interview, so that you’re not at a loss for words when those questions come up. Also, be as specific as possible in your responses; employers want to see evidence that you can problem-solve, collaborate, and even learn from your mistakes.
Ask some questions when wrapping up.
It’s a good idea to ask a few questions at the end of your interview. First of all, to demonstrate your interest in the position, and secondly, to manage your own (and possibly the interviewer’s) expectations. For instance, you can ask: “Where are you at in the interview process? Do you have any reservations about my fit with your company? When should I expect to hear a response?” If you have another job offer on the table but are interested in this current opportunity, you may also want to communicate that to the interviewer (not as an “ultimatum,” but for the sake of transparency).
Always send a thank-you note after the interview.
This may seem like a small thing, but it can mean a lot!
Pitfalls To Avoid
- Don’t turn down interviews. There’s nothing negative that can come from interviewing with a company, even if it doesn’t seem like a promising situation. At the very least, you’ll get to practice your interview skills – and who knows? You may end up liking the people, the organization, and any job offer that comes your way.
- Don’t get caught up in “acing the interview.” Remember that you’re not “going on trial” when you give an interview. The employer is simply trying to determine if you’d be a good fit for their open position. In reality, you should be doing the same thing with them. So don’t stress over the impression you’re making. Just be yourself, and you’ll be fine.
- Don’t focus too much on yourself, and your needs. If an interviewer is constantly hearing about what you need, and what you expect from the company, they could decide that you may not be a good hire for the company. Instead, focus on investigating what your potential employer needs as well, to see if your hiring would be a good fit for both parties.
If you implement the positive suggestions above, and steer clear of those “don’ts,” then you’ll be in a much better position to succeed at your job search – and maybe even land that dream job you’ve always wanted!
Let the experts at The Doyle Group help you through your job search journey.