Beyond the Job Boards: 5 Proactive Job Search Tips

job search tips

Finding a new job can be tough. Depending on which survey you read, today’s average online job posting gets a frighteningly high 118 to 550 responses.

Surprisingly, most positions are not filled by applicants to online ads. Instead, they're filled by creative job seekers who go about finding new jobs using social networking, face-to-face networking or working through recruiters. Here are five job search tips that can help you get results:

1. Strengthen your LinkedIn profile

The use of social networking in hiring is exploding, and LinkedIn tops all sites when it comes to employment. In a Bullhorn survey, 98 percent of staffing professionals polled said they used LinkedIn as a recruiting tool in 2012, and the popularity of the professional network site shows no sign of abating. The takeaway: Do all you can to increase the strength of your LinkedIn profile.

2. Leverage LinkedIn to find inside connections

If you have inside contacts at your target company, reach out to them. If you don’t have connections there, browse your LinkedIn connections’ connections — and don't be shy about using the "Ask for an introduction" function. Present yourself initially as simply asking for information and background, rather than looking for assistance in getting hired. Examine their profile to find a hook: “From one triathlete to another, I’m asking ...” or “As a fellow NYU alum, how do you like ...?” If you do establish an online relationship with your new contact, don’t hesitate to ask for a referral. Many companies offer employees a bonus — often several hundred dollars — for referring a new hire.

3. Use job boards strategically

Job boards aren’t just for hunting for jobs. Posting your resume on job boards is also a good way to check if it’s optimized for search engines. If you find you’re getting approached about jobs that are all wrong for you — say, IT analyst or social networking director when you’re hoping to land a position as an administrative assistant — review the words repeated throughout your resume (your keywords). For administrative assistants, top keywords and phrases include administrative assistant, calendaring, scheduling, travel arrangements, correspondence, meetings, event planning, expenses, payroll, Microsoft Office, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

To determine other positions’ keywords, carefully read the language used in the job listings you’re interested in. (Also, check your state’s Department of Labor website — some suggest resume keywords by job category.) Once you’ve identified your keywords, check their strength by typing one or several (separated by commas) into’s tool to see how often they appear in job descriptions.

4. Work your contacts

Prepare that elevator pitch, practice it in front of the mirror and be ready to launch it every chance you get. An OfficeTeam survey reported that while networking online is still the top method for keeping in touch with contacts, next is lunch or coffee with contacts, followed by local networking events and professional association meetings. You need to be ready to explain what you’re looking for clearly and concisely when talking face-to-face.

5. Team up with a recruiter

If you’ve created a good LinkedIn profile and job board presence, chances are recruiters are approaching you. Engage with them. A good recruiter can provide excellent general job search tips and knows what each employer really wants, enabling the person to provide specific information you can put to use immediately. For instance, a recruiter might say, “Your degree and experience in X and Y are key for this company. Put them on top of your resume.”

Employers today have moved on from just passively posting ads; it’s time for candidates to be more proactive, too. Take charge of your search, integrate it into every area of your life and talk about it online and in person. With these results-oriented job search tips, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of getting that call.

What proactive job search tips have you found effective? Share them below.

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