It’s tempting to start applying for jobs immediately when you decide you want to start a job search.
However, there are a few key steps you should do BEFORE applying for any jobs… and these steps will actually help you get hired in less time.
So I’m going to reveal what I’d do if I were starting a job search today… before sending out any resumes or applications.
This is how to start a job search to set yourself up for success…
How to Start a Job Search: 7 Steps Before You Start Applying
1. Review your past success and accomplishments
If you just left a job or will be leaving soon, the first thing you should do to get ready to start a job search is to think about what you accomplished.
It’s easy to lose track of these things as your career goes on, but they’re one of the best ways to make your resume stand out. You can put accomplishments in your resume summary paragraph, your bullets, and more.
So what did you actually achieve in your last job? This is different than what you were assigned to do, or responsible for, and is actually more important!
Employers will be much more impressed by this type of data on your resume, rather than phrases like, “responsible for…”
2. Update your resume
After you’ve thought about some of your recent accomplishments in your last job or current job, it’s time to update your resume to attract employers.
Put your most recent work, and make sure to include numbers, facts and statistics whenever possible.
If you want more help with writing an impressive resume I’d recommend reading this full list of what should go on a resume.
And for samples of good employment history sections that will get you interviews, read this article.
Putting data on your resume is one of the best ways to stand out, so make sure you’re adding as many pieces of data as you can, including dollar figures, percent increases, etc.
3. Update your LinkedIn
After you’ve got a resume you’re happy with, you want to put some of that key information on your LinkedIn for your job search too.
Most hiring managers are checking your LinkedIn even if you applied elsewhere, so it’s important to make sure this represents you as a professional and shows off some of your recent work.
Put bullets and accomplishments from your resume into LinkedIn. Make sure you have a great photo, too. If you don’t have a photo on LinkedIn, many recruiters and hiring managers will be suspicious that you’re not a real person (fake accounts are somewhat common on all social networks, and LinkedIn is no different).
Updating your LinkedIn is a key step for how to start a job search, so don’t skip this.
If you’re not convinced, read this article on the 5 reasons you should use LinkedIn.
And if you want more help setting up your LinkedIn, here’s a list of everything to put on a LinkedIn profile.
4. Brainstorm what type of companies you want to work for
What type of job do you want? Do you want to stay in the same industry or not? Employers aren’t going to interview you and hire you if you can’t show them that you’ve thought about this.
Skipping this step is one of the top reasons I see job seekers fail their interviews, or not even get interviews (because they can’t explain this in cover letters, either).
Employers don’t want to hire someone who’s desperate and will take any job they get. They want someone who’s targeting specific things.
Do not skip this step when planning to start your job search. It’s absolutely crucial.
Once you’ve thought about the general type of job you want (industry, function/role, etc.), you can start researching specific companies.
I like to search on Google and LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has a great feature where you view one company’s profile, and it suggests six other similar companies that people also viewed (see the image below).
You can view those six, and discover six more from each of those companies. Just keep branching out!
On Google, try searching for things like “List of pharmaceutical companies in Boston” or “pharma companies in Boston,” etc.
5. Make a list of companies you want to apply to
As you find companies you’d be interested in working for, put it all in an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet.
Now you won’t have to come back and find these companies again when you’re ready to apply and take interviews.
The minute you’re ready, you can go to your list and start applying.
Now, you may be thinking, “Hold on, how do I know these companies are even hiring?”
It doesn’t matter. Most successful companies are always growing, and sending them a great email with your resume and why you’d love to work for them may get you the interview even if they haven’t posted a relevant job!!
Sure, you can also search later for companies that have jobs posted online, but everyone does that… so that’s where it’s ultra-competitive.
You can still do it, but do this as well. This is a key part of preparing to start a job search.
Also now that you know what types of jobs you want to apply for, consider tailoring your resume to the specific roles you want.
Sending out a generic resume to every employer is faster but it’s going to limit how many companies respond. I’ve tried it both ways and have seen 4-times as many responses after tailoring my resume.
6. Start networking
Before you start applying for jobs and contacting these companies you’ve found in the steps above, think about who you know already.
Do you have any friends/past coworkers that can help you get in touch with a couple of employers in your industry?
When you’re referred to a company by someone they know and trust, the entire process is MUCH easier. You’ll get interviewed faster and often have a more relaxed, easier job interview, too (they’ll ask easier questions and trust you more from the start).
I wrote an article on why networking is the fastest way to find a job… so if you want more info on this, go here.
The bottom line is: You should always think if you know anyone you can contact directly to get introduced to a company before you apply “cold”.
This is a key step when you’re ready to begin your search. The people who only apply online and don’t do any networking often spend months longer in their job search.
So your network is one of the first places you should look when starting a job search.
7. Plan ahead for references
References usually aren’t needed until the end of the job interview process. But if you want to speed through your job search, you might want to think about two or three people who you can use as references and ask if you have their permission.
That way, when a company asks, you’ll be excited and ready to provide your references… not nervous!
While this final step isn’t 100% necessary when starting a job search, it’s another way you can make the upcoming job hunt process easier for yourself.
By following the steps above, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success in your new job search. It’s great to start applying for jobs as soon as you can, but preparing and thinking ahead to start your job search is important as well.