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Effective Job Search Strategies

29 February 2012

Many people tackle their job search process by relying on the easiest option.  They make online applications to fill advertised roles and quietly wait and to be selected for an interview.  If they are called for a screening interview they walk in and expect to be able to ‘wing it’ and be selected for the job.   Some may be lucky however this is not a professional approach to secure one of the most important things in your life – a fulfilling career.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.”

The key to an effective job search is preparation, preparation, and preparation.

Do you know specifically what you have to offer and what you want in your career?  If not, you won’t be able to market yourself effectively when you launch your job search campaign.

Treat your job search like a Marketing Campaign.  This is a marketing exercise in which YOU are the product and the PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYERS are your customers.

Here is the process to market “YOU”

•Define the Product - “You”

•Analyze the Market - “What Jobs?”

•Develop Marketing Strategies

•Implement the Strategies


Know your product

In order to understand yourself and what type of roles, industries and environments suit you, take time to conduct self-assessment exercises that will provide valuable insights into:

•Your technical skills, knowledge and career accomplishments

•Your personal values and interests, what is most important to you

•What satisfies you in a job, your motivators and de-motivators

•The qualities you possess that are desirable to employers

Think about the functional and transferable skills that are your natural abilities.  Analyse your self-management skills and your personality traits.  Consider your ability to handle yourself in varying situations, your work content skills and the technical, specialised skills you have acquired through formal education and training.

This self-assessment process enables you to analyse what you have to offer before you begin the search process and helps you to articulate what you want during your search.  By identifying your accomplishments you can include them in your resume – an essential tool in the job search process (for more on resume writing, see “Dust Off Your Resume” one of my previous articles.)  The self-assessment process gives you confidence and clarity when you are communicating during networking or job interviews.  The big plus here is that it will also help you to manage your career and stay true to your goals after your search is concluded.  

Once you know what you have to offer and you have devised a strong resume, there are a number of strategies you must employ to go to market.  Remember that the easiest option is to apply for advertised roles however statistically they only account for about 20% of job openings.  About 80% of jobs are ‘hidden’ – they haven’t reached the Human Resources department of the companies yet.  A hiring manager may be in the process of deciding exactly what resources are required for a specific project, someone may be thinking about resigning, someone may be promoted soon and an opening will be become available shortly.  In order to get your “foot in the door” in these cases, networking and target marketing will be the best way to go.

Here are pros and cons of each job search method:

Search Firms/Recruitment Agencies

Benefits:  They know the market and what is available now.  They understand the hiring process and can provide interview practice and feedback.  They can correct unrealistic expectation.

Disadvantages:  They work for the employer, not for you.  They make money on placements and many will not spend time on you unless they can match you with a current assignment.  They do not know everything and they may compete with you – they may recommend several candidates including you for the role you desire.

Advertised roles on-line and using the Internet

Benefits:  An excellent source of company information, some job opportunities are posted on company websites and job boards.  The Internet will provide a flavour for industry trends and movements within organizations.

Disadvantages:  Not all information on company websites is up to date and not all job openings are listed.  Emailed resumes may get lost amongst the large number of resumes received and almost always the resumes go straight to Human Resources not the hiring manager.  If you are not careful you can spend an extraordinary amount of time in front of the computer rather than effectively networking face-to-face 

Responding to Advertised Roles on-line and in print media

•Read the advertisement carefully and highlight the core requirements of the role

•Analyse the requirements to get a clear idea of the most important aspects of the job

•Try to contact the decision maker or advertiser to gain as much additional information as possible about the role before you apply

•Write a strong cover letter drawing the closest possible match between your accomplishments and the job requirements

•Analyse and customize your resume to the role, truthfully and effectively

Target Marketing directly to Companies

Benefits:  You decide whom you want to work for, in which area and for whom through effective research.  You make the initial contact when you are ready.

Disadvantages:  There may not be a role available at this point in time and, unless you have a recommendation from someone respected by your target audience, your marketing email or letter may not be read and your approach not considered.  Success can be a matter of luck and applying to the ‘right place at the right time.


Benefits:  You contact the people you know for information, advice, ideas and support.  These people may be able to provide additional contacts to aid you in your job search.  Networking helps you to develop and maintain relationships and there may be mutual benefit in the long run.  You may uncover the ‘hidden’ jobs, develop new contacts in the industries you have targeted and learn who the key people are in a company. Networking gives you the opportunity to practice your interviewing skills.

Disadvantages:  It is time consuming.  Some people feel uncomfortable with the concept of ‘networking’ mistakenly thinking they are asking for a ‘favour.’  

Statistically, networking is the most effective way to find a job.  A recommendation helps to cut through the traditional selection process.  

When allocating time to your job search ensure that you spend about 70-80% of your time identifying and building your network and the remainder of your time applying for advertised roles, working with recruitment consultants and target marketing.

Armed with this information and time spent, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Sharpening your axe” you will conduct a more effective job search.


If you need coaching to assist you in career management and direction visit


Jane Jackson is Director of Style Success, coaching for success.  If you need clarity in your career directions visit or contact 



  • Jane Jackson

    Jane Jackson 7 years ago

    Hi Ann - first of all, I am so sorry that I did not see your comment earlier. Thank you for your comment and also your amazing story. You are a marketing genius! I just had a look at your FB blog and see that you have secured a fabulous role which you started in April this year! I'd be really interested to hear how you are settling in - you are an inspiration to mature age workers - your attitude and determination and creativity certainly paid off! I'm really delighted for you!

  • Ann Margulis

    Ann Margulis 7 years ago

    Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Ann and I have become the poster child for the unemployed mature age worker in Sydney. I have taken out a gigantic billboard at the airport and been interviewed on Sunrise, Today Tonight, and the ABC. There were two articles about me in the Sunday Telegraph and I have been on every talk back radio show in Sydney and many across other capital cities. I am looking for an ad min job and it is impossible to get one even with one million dollars of publicity that I have gotten. I have many years of experience in an office and I am strong in organisation. All of my press clippings are on my FB blog (type into the FB search bar: I am 60 and not over the hill) so you can review that I am serious. If any of the readers know of an ad min job in Sydney please call me. Thanks. Ann 0423 392 176