21 Tips for an Effective Job Search
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If you're in the business analysis job market and are ready to start applying or thinking about applying for jobs, this article is for you. Top business analysis recruiting expert Erica Woods from Apex Systems breaks down the top 21 tips to navigate the process of finding and landing a job successfully.
1. Understand the various Job Search Tasks that should be part of your list
There are a lot of activities you should be focused on, in various categories, such as: Resumes, LinkedIn profiles, Identifying Jobs, Partnering with Recruiters, Application Follow Up, Interview Preparation, Post-Interview Follow Up, Networking, and more.
RESOURCE: MSSQLTips Article on ’20 Tasks for your Job Search Task List’
2. Don’t be your own roadblock
Many job seekers do not apply if they are missing a skill, requirement, or version of a technology listed in the job description or list of requirements. Apply the 80:20 rule to your job search and apply for positions where you meet 80%+ of the criterion and have an interest in the remainder!
RESOURCE: MSSQLTips Article on ‘A Roadmap for Dissecting Job Descriptions’
3. Resume optimization is an important step if you’re applying online
Engage in “organic optimization” by reviewing these aspects of the job description and then mirroring the verbiage in your resume to match: job title, key functions/responsibilities, technologies, certifications, and/or industries. SIDE NOTE: Be honest about your experience, and only include content in your resume that you have done and can speak to! If you want to take it a step further, use a tool to help you optimize your resume, such as JobScan.
RESOURCE: 30-minute Apex Webinar on ‘Creating a Resume that Beats the ATS (Applicant Tracking System)’
4. Perform a social media audit
In addition to cleaning up profiles like LinkedIn and focusing on posting more via your Twitter or GitHub if you have one, do an online search to see what comes up. Then evaluate each profile you have and make some tweaks if you feel it may potentially paint you in an unprofessional or negative light.
RESOURCE: Apex LinkedIn/Digital Branding Webinars
5. Communicate your impact in your resume
We see resumes focus a lot on “here’s what I did,” but not nearly enough on the “here are the results of what I did.” Ask yourself “what difference/impact has my work made? What are my KPIs (key performance indicators)?”
6. Don’t leave off the ‘Community Membership & Contributions’ from your resume
As a member of my local PMI Chapter and the Co-Founder/Organizer of two Tech4Good Meetups, maybe I’m just extra passionate about this. But the consensus from Recruiters and the Managers we support is that any involvement or attendance at a Meetup, Code Camp, Hackathon, Conference, etc. stands out. It shows passion, initiative, and so many other great traits! Also, it can establish an instant connection if you share involvement/membership in a group/association!
RESOURCE: 11 Resume Differentiators
7. Performing a QA audit on your resume is imperative
Who else has looked at your resume? You want to look at your resume when you are fresh, after you have had a chance to walk away, get a good night’s sleep, and have a cup of coffee, tea or whatever your jam is. You also want to ask at least 1-2 other contacts in your network to review and get their feedback.
BONUS TIP: Treat strong, tenured Recruiters as ‘Resume/Career Coaches.’ After you’ve established a good rapport with a Recruiter who seems to support your target jobs, ask them an open-ended question such as “I’d love your feedback. What’s one+ improvement you’d suggest for my resume?”
8. Partner with Recruiters
Love us or hate us, Recruiters have constant visibility into which companies are hiring, what Managers are asking for related to your skill set, and how you can stand out. They can also help ensure your resume gets into the Inbox of the specific hiring Manager!
RESOURCE: Get the full scoop in our 'Working with Recruiters - Your Ultimate Playbook' panel discussion. We’ve also written various Tips for MSSQLTips on how to find, prospect and work effectively with Recruiters. Access them all here!
9. Leverage social media for finding jobs
Social media platforms are beneficial for overall career development, including learning resources, networking, branding, providing the opportunity to connect directly with Recruiters, viewing job postings, setting up job alerts, and doing research on companies as part of your interview prep to-do list! There are groups across platforms for posting jobs specifically, so do some research and seek them out. For EX, I was in the ‘Baltimore Tech Jobs’ and ‘DC Tech Jobs’ groups on Facebook when I lived there, and then I was pleasantly surprised to see a ‘Tampa Tech Jobs’ Facebook group when I moved to Clearwater. Invest 15+ minutes of time searching on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, etc.
10. Don’t be shy about self-promoting
Are you in a relevant, local professional LinkedIn or Meetup group? As long as you are okay with “sharing with the masses” that you are job searching, put up a quick post in one of those groups, such as “Hi everyone! I’m currently looking for a new Project Manager role in an Agile Scrum environment, as my current contract is ending next month. I’ve been focused on a lot of web and digital projects. Is anyone hiring, or know a good resource I could check out?”
11. Utilize your local ‘Community’
Being active in a Meetup group, PMI Chapter, IIBA Chapter, Toastmaster’s Club, or other group/association can have a myriad of benefits. A main one people miss is getting connected to the employers who sponsor those groups. As a Meetup Organizer, I am always happy to connect our members to folks at the companies who sponsor us!
RESOURCE: Apex Webinars on Networking
12. Minimize the “resume black hole” through a 2nd outreach attempt
A major frustration from job seekers is “I never hear back after I apply.” Yes, that’s an all-too-common scenario. However, there are a few things you can do about that! First, engage in #3 above, i.e., resume optimization. That will ensure your resume ranks higher among the applications. Second, take your application process a step further by trying to identify and then contact the Recruiter supporting that role! Is there a name on the job posting? If so, look them up via LinkedIn and send a note/invitation to connect that communicates “I saw your position for a Technical Support Specialist, and I’m very interested! When are you free to discuss?” If there’s no name, look up the company online and try to find a phone number for that location. For Apex, all our branch contact information can be found here (click on city/location to bring up contact info).
13. Identify and practice common interview questions
In addition to the fan favorites like “tell me about yourself,” “what are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?”, “tell me about a time when ______,” do a quick online search and/or ask Recruiters to identify common interview questions related to the role you are interviewing for and the specific technologies/tools being used! Google can be your best friend here, and there’s a ton of great interview questions via communities like Reddit, Stack Overflow, MSSQLTips, etc.
RESOURCE: 33-minute Apex Training on ‘How to Address 6 Common Interview Questions’
14. Taking technical assessments is beneficial
Whether it’s helping to build your confidence, identifying areas that to brush up on (I dislike using the word “weakness”), or giving you extra material for your resume and LinkedIn profile (YES, you can add strong assessment results!), taking assessments is worth your time. You can take via Indeed, and now through LinkedIn (new addition!). Staffing firms have access to different assessment providers as well, so communicate to your Recruiter that “I’d love to take some technical assessments to help with interview preparation and give me a leg up if I do well. Do you have any you could send me around ____?”
15. Learn about body language hacks for an interview
I’ve learned so much from Certified Body Language Expert Jeff Baird over the years on this topic, including making sure your hands are visible during interviews/meetings to communicate you are trustworthy. Ensuring good eye contact and proper posture also shows the interviewer that you are interested and listening to them!
RESOURCE: 32-minute Apex Training on ‘Body Language Hacks for Interviews’ with Jeff Baird
16. Do a pre-interview reflection exercise to identify your 4 S’
The day before an interview, we encourage candidates to review the job description and think through “Why am I qualified? Why am I interested? What experience do I have that relates to what they are trying to achieve? What else can I bring to the table?” Also, identify your most relevant Skills/Strengths, Successes, Career Stories, and any Skills Gaps. If you do have a skills gap, i.e., you are missing experience or knowledge with a skill or technology mentioned, spend some time on learning (#20 tip below!).
17. Build your brand and collect credibility aspects and testimonials
Ask yourself “Besides my resume, what else do I have that I could share with Recruiters and hiring Managers to really communicate my credibility?” For many this could be Recommendations you have on your LinkedIn profile, which you may or may not already be sharing proactively with Recruiters. This may also include non-proprietary code samples (for the Programming crowd), technical assessments (you can take via Indeed, LinkedIn, or ask your Recruiter to send you some!), non-proprietary writing samples, and more! Identify one+ item to include in your “Candidate Marketing Materials” folder to share during your job search that paints you in a positive note!
18. LinkedIn deserves its own bullet point
Our biggest suggestions around your LinkedIn are to view it as your digital candidate marketing portfolio, add Skills, get Recommendations, humanize/personalize yourself (by adding interests, causes you care about, volunteer experiences, a professional picture, etc.), and have fun with it visually. For example, it took me about 10 minutes to create a WordCloud to use as my LinkedIn banner picture at the top of my profile with a free WordArt tool I found online.
BONUS TIP: Make a goal to try and get 3+ LinkedIn recommendations! Once you’ve accomplished this, download them as a PDF and share in conjunction with your resume. Or copy and paste them into the follow up email you share with the Recruiter/s you are speaking with and/or in your follow up Thank You note to a hiring Manager post-interview!
19. A simple “Thanks” still goes a long way
Speaking of the ‘Thank You Note,’ we feel it will never go out of style as a best practice to include in your post-interview etiquette/protocol! A study I read in the last 6 months said that only 20-26% of interviewees send one. This practice in of itself can really act as a differentiator for you!
RESOURCE: Apex Blog on ‘Deliver a Quality Post-Interview Thank You Note’
20. Take training on technologies/skills you’re lacking
Per #2 above, we’d encourage you to apply for positions following the 80:20 rule. Get yourself into consideration for roles where you have at least 80% of the skills and requirements the position is seeking, with an interest on learning and doing the rest! Take this a step further by engaging in 30+ minutes of training on any skills you are lacking, which communicates strong initiative and helps build confidence even further! Also, add completed courses to a ‘Training, Education and Certifications’ section of your resume.
RESOURCE: Apex has a free technical webinar series, where you can access numerous 30-90 minute sessions on trending technologies/skills in-demand (you can search by technology in the search box)!
BONUS TIP: Throughout your career, and during your job search, have a plan for building your skills and knowledge outside the office. Get tips on '10 External Skills Development Suggestions' in this MSSQLTips article.
21. Continuous education is important
Just like continuously learning about new technologies, in-demand concepts, and overall leadership and soft skills is important, so is the concept of being an “educated job seeker.” Whether it’s engaging by reading one article or watching one video a day, week, month or quarter, set a SMART goal to stay on top of job search best practices! Block off time to review the resources we’ve outlined above.
RESOURCE: If you review all the ones above and are looking for more, we’ve got you covered! We’re hosting one webinar a month via our Apex Career Readiness site!
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Once you land that new job, rock at it! We hosted a 'You have a new job, now what?' webinar series with 3 experts who have taught us so much! They share advice on orientation, acclimating to a new culture (including virtual tips), how to have effective 1 on 1s, ways to solicit and apply feedback, overcoming mistakes, growing your skills on the job, and more! Access this training here.
To expand your skill set and optimize your business analysis job opportunities, consider earning a professional certification. IIBA offers an array of professional certifications to help you stand out to employers. Learn about IIBA’s certifications here.
Editor’s Note: a version of this article originally appeared on Erica Wood’s LinkedIn page on 06/2020.
About The Author:
Erica Woods is the Director of Contractor Programs and Philanthropy at Apex Systems. Her focus is on overseeing programs, teams, communication channels, and other resources that support and add value to their IT Contractor Community of 16,000+. Erica also oversees corporate philanthropy efforts and acts as a technical community evangelist for various STEM programs/nonprofits.