Nothing ever moves fast enough in job search.
Applications take forever to fill out. Recruiters take forever to call you back. Companies take forever to contact you (if they even actually do contact you). Interview schedules get stalled when a vital decision maker goes out of town. The list goes on.
These delays are annoying for nearly every job seeker. But for those who can ill-afford a slow-paced search, they can be torture. So what can you do to accelerate your job search?
Try a few of these ideas on for size:
1. Connect the Dots for Them
Understand that the people who land the most interviews are those who make it easy for the resume reviewer to quickly connect the dots between "Here's what we need" and "Here's what this candidate could walk through our doors and deliver." The easier you make this for decision makers, the better the odds that you'll land an interview. Realize that no one is going to connect the dots for you. This is your job.
2. If the Job Ad is Old, Call First
Have you ever spent a giant chunk of your evening toiling over job application, only to find out a day or two later that they've already filled the position? Ugh. What a waste of energy and time. How can you avoid this? Here's one way: If you see a job that's been posted for more than a couple of weeks, contact an internal recruiter or HR person at that firm and with a simple, "I just came across this ad and I'm very interested. Are you still actively interviewing for the role?" In the best case, this quick call also serves to build an "in" with someone who will be on the lookout for your resume. At the very least, it could spare you some wasted effort if the role is nearly filled.
3. If You're Missing Mandatory Credentials, Find an "In"
Resume scanning software simply isn't designed to make exceptions. It doesn't factor in "grey areas" during the scanning process. Instead, applicant tracking systems are designed to look for certain key words and credentials and decide "yes" or "no". If you're missing a credential that the job description calls out as mandatory, you're going to land in the "no" pile if you simply apply via the online application process. If your heart is set on this position and you think you could build a case for how you'd be a great fit, find and endear yourself to someone on the inside of the company. Humans see grey areas; computers do not.
4. Consider Possible Jobs Within Your Own Company
If you're feeling like you need a new challenge or fresh start, don't assume that you have to leave your current company to find it. Think about departments or specific roles within your organization that align with your skills and interests. Or find a problem that you could help solve. And then build a proposal or strategy that may bring you a new opportunity without requiring you to jump ship. Just use care with this one if you have a boss that may freak if she hears you're sniffing around. You don't want to jeopardize your current job while sleuthing out the new one.
5. Make a Targeted List of Companies to Pursue
It's strange to me how few job seekers create a list of targeted employers. I have to think that, if pressed, almost every one of us could spout out five or so companies that seem cool, interesting or in line with our career interests. So try it. Write them down. Perfect. Now go find people working within those companies and learn more about their firms, their roles, etc. In other words, learn more from the very people that you'd be working with. The insight provided will be helpful as you strategize, and the connections you forge could be extremely beneficial as you work to open doors at these organizations.
6. Approach People With Curiosity, Not an Obvious Agenda
You want to know why job search networking gets such a bad rap? Because so many people suck at it. One of the most common approaches job seekers use when networking is, "Hey. I need something. We may have never met before, but I need you to do this for me. Now would be good." For crying out loud. That's not networking; that's ambushing. Do not ambush. Instead, approach people with genuine curiosity and interest. Tell them that you're exploring roles in x, y or z and that you noticed that they're doing those things in their current job. Ask if they'd be willing to answer two quick questions about their experience and, when they say yes, make them good ones. Show interest and appreciation -- and build some rapport - before you go for the gusto with "the big ask."
7. Accept the Imperfections in the Process
This is an important one for anyone who is becoming increasingly cheesed off by rude recruiters, interviewers who act only halfway engaged, companies that never even get back with you, or any of the other highly unfair or annoying aspects of the job search process. Yes, it's the wild west out there. Yes, it can be unfair. No, there isn't always rhyme or reason when it comes to the process, the timeline, etc. And that can be the total pits. But if you let it get to you, the chip on your shoulder will be evident in each of your next interviews. And companies don't tend to fall over themselves to hire the guy with the noticeable chip. If and when you encounter ridiculousness in the search, do your best to dust it off and keep plodding forward. There are good people out there, including recruiters, HR people and interviewers. Go find them.
8. Don't Underestimate the Power of a World-Class Cover Letter
Every time I see an article or a discussion in which someone says "The cover letter is dead!" or "Cover letters are worthless!" I want to shout at my computer screen, "It's because you're doing them wrong! Stop doing them wrong!" This can be incredibly valuable real estate if you take the time to make your cover letter brilliant, memorable and on point to what that company is seeking. If you realized how many cover letters were just pathetic, you'd understand how huge of an opportunity you have to tell the reviewer who you are, why (specifically) you want to work for that company, and what (specifically) you can walk through their doors and deliver. The cover letter can be your ace in the hole. Take command of that baby and use it to your advantage.
9. If You're Going to Play the Game, Understand the Game
Do you know what, exactly happens to your resume when you hit "send" on an online application? Do you know where it goes and how that resume travels through an organization? Most people don't. It's not like we go to school and take classes on this topic. Noooo, we just guess. And guessing isn't always going to give you the best shot. How about if I told you that, in up to 90% of cases, your resume is going to be first reviewed by a computer, not a human? Wouldn't you like to understand clearly what that computer is looking for? Better yet, wouldn't you like to understand how to get around that computer? Before you spend one more minute chucking resumes into the "black hole" via online applications, spend some time learning how the game works. And then build your strategy accordingly.
10. If You Can't Find a Job, Consider Creating One
One of the worst parts of job search for many is that so much feels out of your control. While this option may not be for anyone, one way around a prolonged job search is to take control of the situation and create your own job. This doesn't have to lock you into a lifelong decision, by any means. But it could give you much-needed income and sanity while you continue the hunt. There are plenty of business ideas that are relatively easy and inexpensive to fire up, flexible on time and could help you keep your skills fresh and your sense of pride intact. Maybe you can consult in your field of specialization, or maybe you do something totally different like offer music lessons, clean houses, or sell crafts on Etsy. Who knows, you may love your "side hustle" so much that you end up pivoting your career altogether.
Whatever the situation, whatever your particular case ... if you're feeling stressed about the pace of your job search, don't assume it's all out of your control. Take command of your strategy and the things you can control, stay the course and remember -- it will (literally) be the difference of a day between when you don't have the job you want, and when you land the offer.
So why not make that day arrive sooner, rather than later?
About the Author: Jenny Foss is a career strategist and the voice of the popular career blog JobJenny.com. Jenny also operates a Portland, OR-based recruiting agency and is the author of the Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit and the Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. Find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny.