5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Job Prospects

Develop some job-hunting prowess to land your next job.

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Miriam Salpeter
Miriam Salpeter
Not landing the job you want? How can you change your luck? Stop what you're doing and make some changes; you may be surprised by the results.

1. Don't apply for positions if you are overqualified. While you may assume that having more than the necessary qualifications will help you land a job in a tough job market, the opposite is likely true. For example, if the job is primarily administrative and you've held executive-level positions and boast a master's degree in business administration, the hiring manager is unlikely to consider you a serious candidate. Why? Many hiring managers will assume an overqualified applicant, if hired, will resign the minute something better comes along. Others are concerned that overqualified candidates will expect inflated salaries. Don't waste your time applying for jobs if you are overqualified—it makes you look desperate.

[See our list of the Best Careers.]

2. Create a resume focused on your future job. Make sure your resume highlights details relevant to your target opportunity, and that it isn't just a rundown of your past work history. Study the job description, and be sure you specifically address the hiring manager's needs when you apply. Don't include information in your application materials that wouldn't interest THIS employer. Describe your background using relevant words and phrases. Conduct a "search and destroy" mission for irrelevant buzzwords and jargon in your materials. Eliminate details or words that could confuse a reader or make her think you are looking for a different position.

3. Stop assuming. Most likely, a computer will conduct an initial scan of your application materials. Even when a human reviews your resume, studies show you will receive a cursory, 10-second or less, review. Recruiters will not give you credit for accomplishments you do not highlight in your materials. Do not expect anyone to read between the lines of your resume. If you improved sales or increased profits, make a point to say so, and quantify those accomplishments. Clarify every important detail. For example, if you earned an award, state the name of the award, but don't assume everyone will know why you won it; it's up to you to describe why it is important.

4. Start talking to people you don't think can help you. Especially in today's "connected" world, when just one or two "links" may separate you from the person who has the authority to hire you, you never know who will be your next key connector. It's just as likely to be someone you assume cannot help you as it is to be the person you've spent the last three months trying to meet.

It's hard to overstate how important it is to include informational meetings in your job search. If you have not identified several people to meet and interview about their careers and their organizations' needs, then you are missing a great opportunity to learn details that could help you apply effectively to your next job. You never know—your next-door neighbor or a friend of a friend could help you make a great connection.

[See Building a Network in 8 Steps.]

5. Don't tell everyone you're looking for a job. Instead, be subtle and let your circles know about your skills, accomplishments, and goals without wearing a metaphorical "J" for job seeker on your chest. It's a fine line between keeping everyone aware of your job search and becoming a nuisance at parties and networking events, but you can strike a balance.

Use your social media updates to clue people into your job search plans. If you're finishing up a certificate to help you change jobs, tweet about it, post about it on Facebook, and let your LinkedIn network know what you are studying. Share links and news about organizations where you'd like to work. For example, if you are seeking work in the financial industry, read relevant blogs and post frequent links and updates. People will notice that you're a resource and will be more likely to refer you if they hear of a job opportunity.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.

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