Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Job Search 2012

When I found out my then employer was going out of business, I knew I needed to reinvent the way I went about looking for a new job.  Business conditions in 2012 are not as prosperous as they were pre GFC, and the SME sector in which I work has been particularly hard hit, particularly in its sense of how bad conditions are.

I needed to revisit my job search strategy and techniques to be successful. 

After a lot of hard work and numerous applications and interviews, I ended up landing a position with a company where I’m very happy. This outlines my reinvented job search strategy: what worked and lessons learnt.

What Worked
One Page Summary

These days, it’s stating the obvious to say that advertisers are swamped by the number of applications they receive. It’s important to have a well presented cover letter and resume; however there are several things you can do to help your application stand out.

One idea is to prepare a one page summary, as shown below. This works well if you are able to e-mail your application, and are not restricted by the 2 attachments only functionality of Seek.Com.


I’ve included sections on  (from top to bottom, left to right) : general description, employment summary, education, training and affiliations, industry and technology summary and work experience highlights.
As a CPA qualified accountant, I added the CPA logo in the top left corner to add visual interest.
My experience is that the one page summary worked particularly well with employer-direct recruitment.

Resume Modifications

The resume is a vital part of anyone’s job search tool box. Typically, it’s an evolving document, updated on each job search occasion.  It’s worth taking the time to completely rewrite your resume, taking the opportunity to freshen up both the presentation and the content.

  • Achievements  - after a few years, it’s easy to forget the detail of what you accomplished in earlier roles.  One forward looking solution is to keep track of work achievements progressively. Every month, e-mail yourself an update of what you accomplished .  Also keep track of the key characteristics of your role. For example, what computer systems did you use in your job. I’ve completely forgotten what financial system I used at a company I worked for 10 years ago. Whilst in reality it is, in most cases, completely irrelevant, it could be a minor advantage to be able to list the system under your technology summary . If it is a popular system, having used it (no matter how long ago) may get you past the first culling of applications. If you haven’t kept a detailed outline of your achievements, then another solution is to ask former colleagues and staff for their assistance. It’s quite likely that you can validly claim responsibility for the achievements of staff who reported to you.

  • Use highlighting to emphasize particular points in your resume to address the specific position. This won’t work on all occasions, but will work when applications are reviewed on-screen or printed on a color printer.

  • Use hybrid titles.  Different organisations use different titles for similar positions. Hybrid titles can be used to emphasize common themes in different titles. My current title is CFO; however that title was more about creating an impression outside the organisation, and put me at a disadvantage when applying for financial controller positions, as it looked as though I was taking a backward step.  The hybrid title “Financial Controller / CFO” emphasized  career continuity

  •  Consider incorporating a one page summary as the first page of your resume. This resume version could then be used when applying through Seek.Com, where only two attachments are allowed.

Ask recruiters for the opportunity to introduce yourself. Each time I received a “we regret to advise you”  e-mail from a recruiter, I took that as opportunity to get another contact name and e-mail address.

E-mail the recruiter requesting an opportunity to meet and introduce yourself. I regularly scheduled annual leave days to allow me to request “meet and greet” opportunities.

These “meet and greet” interviews were very useful;  they provided excellent interview practice opportunities and were a great source of ideas on how to present my career and experience.  

Recruiters were also a good source of ideas on where to look for a new job.  For example, one recruiter suggested Geelong as a possible location (closer to home than many of the positions I applied for, but out of mind because it isn’t part of the Melbourne metropolitan area), and another recruiter recommended a couple a agencies that I hadn’t considered)

Finally, these “meet and greet” interviews resulted in interviews with two clients.

Once you have met with a recruiter, keep in contact. I’d e-mail recruiters  every 4-6 weeks, to help stay top of mind.  

Career or Executive Coach

In the day to day routine of working and job search , it’s not easy to step back and look at the big picture. That’s why a career or executive coach can be useful.
I worked with Robyn Pulman ( ).
What I liked  about Robyn’s approach was that she could move from offering specific job search tips (put your name and phone number on each page of your resume) to providing a conceptual framework of the overall job search process.  Job search is a essentially a business development activity, and business development is about product or service, communication, and relationships. Looking at job search this way encourages a business like and professional approach.
I’d schedule an hour’s conversation with Robyn every four to six weeks, and cover off on issues such as :
·         Developing referrals and networking

  • Effective questioning
  • Achieving high performance
  • Goal setting
  • Career planning
  • Alternative career and life options
  • Interview technique and planning
All up, these conversations helped keep me motivated and energized.

Cover Letter Checklist

A successful cover letter needs to be customized to the position being applied for.  I started keeping a list of all the phrases that I developed to highlight different strengths, experiences and abilities.  This made customizing cover letters a much easier task.

Lessons Learnt

Interview Preparation

After 10 or so interviews, I found myself getting a bit blasé and not preparing sufficiently for interviews.
Solution: prepare an interview checklist, so nothing is overlooked. For example, print out the “About Us” page of the organisations website.

Build Up Momentum Earlier

If I had to redo the job search, one thing I would do differently is to “move quicker” and be prepared to spend some money. For example, one idea was to produce a “With Compliments” slip. This would have made it possible to thank recruiters and interviewers in much more memorable way than by sending an e-mail.

Another idea I had but did nothing with was to get a professional to rewrite my resume.  The resume writer was based in the US and may well have re-written all or part of my resume in a way that improved its effectiveness ( )

Manage Morale and Enthusiasm

Job search can be a tiring and demoralizing process. The longer it takes, the easier it is to start doubting your experience and skills.  The last thing you want to come across as in an interview is desperate – you want to present as interested and interesting.

Plan B

Depending on your circumstances, it may be worthwhile to develop a Plan B.  When it looked as though my current role would come to an end before I had obtained a new position, my plan B was to go back to study fulltime and finish off a Master’s degree that I was half way through.

Project Management

Job search is a tiring activity. Therefore it makes sense to not to keep revisiting decisions all the time.  Establish a plan, and generally keep to it. In my situation,  I decided at what point I would suspend my job search and resume full time study, at what point I would later resume job search,  and so on.
The aim is to reduce decision fatigue and encourage a sense of purposefulness.

Recommended Reading

Most of these books were recommended by Robyn Pulman.

·         Habits Aren’t Just For Nuns – Robyn Pulman  

·         Endless Referrals – Bob Bury

·         Skill With People – Les Giblin

·         Fierce Conversations

·         Purple Squirrels

·         How to Stop Worrying and Start Living – Dale Carnegie


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