Why job search skills are so crucial to landing a job

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

May 31

There are job skills. And then there are job search skills. They are not the same. A big part of why many people have such a difficult time landing a job is because they have poor job search skills.

And why is that? Usually it is because we don’t focus on our job search skills until we need to go find a job. Then we discover that our search skills are rusty at best. At worst, very outdated. After all, how many of you have needed to do a video job interview in your career?

We’re rusty. We haven’t practiced our interview questions. Consequently, we don’t have confidence going into an interview and usually come out of the interview knowing, deep inside, we didn’t do our best.

Most of us don’t even know what a good list of job search skills would look like. Until now. It’s not rocket science to create the list. But, like any job skill, you need to practice, maintain, and build upon your job search skills to remain effective.

What are the principle job search skills? Let’s take a look.

Ability to research companies or positions

Google is your friend, right?

But that’s limiting. Useful, but limiting.

How about looking at multiple sites to get a grip on your target company (you do have target companies where you want to work, right)?

How about going to LinkedIn and finding what the company is also putting out there. Along with people you may be connected to that work at that targeted company.

Going into 10-k filings to find out what’s up with the finances of the company?

If there are multiple divisions, what’s the division doing where you hope to land a job?

Now, not all of this will be used in the interviewing process. But it is meant to do two tasks well:

  • Find out if you have contacts in your target company so you can talk to them about working there
  • Have a great amount of context for the company walking into interviews so you have a better chance of understanding and answering the questions being asked of you.

That’s research.

Building a resume

I’ve been a hiring manager. I currently interview candidates and I am not the hiring manager. But I’m an awesome influencer…

I’ve seen hundreds of resumes. Hundreds. I’ve seen two that I would not have changed a thing. Two.

Resumes get you the interview. They don’t get you the job, but they do get you the interview.

If your resume halfway stands out from the millions of crappy resumes, your chances of getting an interview are significantly higher than all of your competition.

Resumes need to show that you can do the job and have the accomplishments to prove it.

How you build a resume is really a course that is worth taking. I’m building it. 🙂

Excellent phone interviews

Phone interviews are usually conducted by two types of people (or both in separate phone interviews):

  • A recruiter / HR type
  • Someone in the department doing screening for the hiring manager

These are different audiences. People who are interviewing don’t understand this. Consequently, they answer questions the same way – usually the way someone in the department, who knows the ins and outs of the position, would want the questions answered.

But, for example, HR folks don’t know all the ins and outs of the position. Answering with all the ins and outs puts all of your answers way over the head of the HR person, especially if it is a technical position. The HR folks are listening to your over-the-head answer and desperately trying to find out if what you are saying matches up to any job skill in the job description.

Usually, the answers don’t because the answers are for the wrong audience. And the candidate, that would be you, doesn’t move on.

And if you answer phone interview questions to the department person who knows the ins and outs of the work with what an HR person would need to hear, you’ll get thrown out because you don’t know how to do the job.

Wrong audience, wrong answers. Plus poor interview skills (see below).

Awesome video interview skills

Video interviews are much more like face to face interviews. And they have a whole set of new skills that can blow you out of the water if you don’t handle them right.

Let’s see…

  • Your technical ability to set up the meeting using the company’s preferred format. Skype for Business? Teams? Zoom? GoToMeeting? WebEx? All of them require similar, but different, options and your ability to navigate those options — and overcome difficulties is not easy. Execute this well, though, and your smooth-running meeting doesn’t have hiccups taking away from your awesome talent.
  • Your audio quality for the meeting. Audio quality makes a huge difference in video. If you’re hard to hear, or there is too much background noise (sorry — kids, dogs, spouse, etc.) it detracts from your message.
  • Your camera background. Microsoft Teams has a feature on video calls where you can blur the background. It’s great in that all of the focus is on you and not what is in the background. The background to your video gets evaluated…is there a couch? Bookcase? Blank wall? A mess with whatever background? It ALL gets evaluated in an interviewer’s mind, conscious or not.
  • Your movements within the video frame. Too much movement will often overwhelm your Internet bandwidth and your video ends up pixelated and your voice chopped. Your hand gestures jumping into and out of the video frame (jazz hands) is distracting and takes away from your message.
  • People forget they are live and don’t talk like they are in a face-to-face conversation.

Yeah, video is a trap unless you are well-versed in video conversations.

Face-to-face interview skills

Millions of pixels have been used to describe needed face-to-face interview skills. I won’t list them all here.

However, most people make mistake after mistake after mistake in how they conduct the interview. And they lose the job.

Committee interview skills

Committee interviews, where a group of people interview you or there are serial interviews by multiple people one right after the other, is another set of job search skills that need mastering.

Essentially, all of the face-to-face interview skills come into play here. Then, on top of that, you need to evaluate who each player interviewing you is, what role they play in the department, what role they play in your interview (influencer, significant influencer, if you convince this person the hiring manager will hire you person???).

You have to have a fast read on the room, on each person doing the interview and then focus your answers on what that person needs to understand about your work. Yes, more understanding the audience and getting your answers to that audience.

Finally, analyzing job offers

Just because you get a job offer, it doesn’t mean you should take it. I’ve negotiated job offers (and felt terrible doing it – why???). I’ve refused job offers. I’ve accepted them.

Oh, boy. Job offers are wonderful. And filled with risk. Yet, knowing how to stand up for yourself, understanding how the company is negotiating with you is a reflection on their culture, and how you navigate the acceptance is an important skill. Especially if you know you need to walk away. And why.

Not many people are Cubicle Warrior skilled when it comes to analyzing job offers.

Conclusion

If you’ve read this far — and thanks — I hope that you can see these are very different skills that need to be learned to do a successful job search by anyone aspiring to become a Cubicle Warrior.

The most interesting way I’ve seen someone hone and maintain job search skills is this: he set an objective to obtain one job offer per year while he was working at his company.

He did this to keep his resume up and then maintain his search and interviewing skills. He didn’t intend to leave his company because he was satisfied with the work, benefits, and the rest of the package.

I watched him get job offers year after year. He turned them all down for all good reasons.

Until he didn’t and he accepted an offer he couldn’t refuse. All because he wanted to practice his job search skills.

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