Job Hunters Guide hero Image

A Job Hunter’s Guide to Landing an Interview

How to score a job interview like a pro

Whether you’re unemployed, underemployed, or simply considering a career change, if you’re hoping to secure a job interview, you’re in the right place! This article has everything you need to know.

Let’s get you that interview!

Mastering Your First Impression

First impressions are important—and it’s increasingly common for that first impression to happen online. Thanks to the internet, we can be unofficial detectives, finding and piecing together bits of information about people through various public profiles. Your potential future employer may be trying to learn more about you this way, too!
Stopwatch with 7 Seconds Illustration

You only have 7 seconds to make a good first impression.

Think about the things you’d notice if you were sizing someone up online. To a certain extent, we’re all guilty of “thin-slicing,” taking a quick mental evaluation of someone to predict their competence, confidence, and likability. People are inherently biased in that respect. Anchoring is a type of cognitive bias that “describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the ‘anchor’) when making decisions.” Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the psychological basis of first impressions! Here are some tips to improve the likelihood of your first impression being a good one.
Think about how you want to be perceived

Think about how you want to be perceived.

Your online profiles collectively form your personal brand. How do you want to portray yourself to the world—both professionally and personally? There’s a difference. How you choose to brand yourself online is a reflection of how you might brand the organization that’s considering hiring you. So, project a presentable image.

Clean up your online presence

Clean up your online presence.

Some social media sites and apps have a “view as” option that allows you to see what visitors see. When looking at your profiles, try to make an unbiased assessment of what version of yourself you’re presenting. Check your sharing permissions on social networks, and restrict access to information, photos, and videos you’d rather employers not see.

Fix any (and all) grammar mistakes

Fix any (and all) grammar mistakes.

So many aspects of modern jobs involve strong written communication. Even simple things like emails should be well written. Typos and grammar mistakes on your profiles can jeopardize your attempt to come across as professional. Protect your reputation by running your words through a free grammar checker.

Craft your elevator pitch

Craft your elevator pitch.

Before you begin applying for jobs, work on the messaging you’ll use to promote yourself as a strong candidate. Make sure this is consistent throughout every stage of the hiring process: from the initial job application form, to your resume and cover letter, to all email, phone, and video call communications. Every step is a new touchpoint for recruiters to learn more about why you’re a great fit for the position!

Now let’s talk about the specifics of sprucing up your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn Best Practices

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social networking site with over 750 million members in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The platform is intended for professionals who are interested in networking, sharing ideas, sharpening skills, and gaining industry insights. That’s what makes it such a wonderful tool for connecting job seekers and employers. The Average Employee Holds 12 Different Jobs Throughout Their Lifetime

92% of companies use social media platforms to look up candidates.

Since so many recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn to assess potential employees, you want your profile looking sharp. Plan to put the same amount of effort into polishing your LinkedIn profile as you would your resume. If you don’t, you can come across as indifferent or oblivious about marketing yourself successfully online.

Spend enough time to make your profile really shine!

LinkedIn Logo

Profile Basics

As you’re creating or improving your LinkedIn profile, begin with the most basic thing of all: your name!

Add your full name.

Some people don’t include their last name, but this can limit your discoverability on the platform. Make sure to add any post-nominal letters if you have any worth mentioning (e.g., MBA, PMP, PhD). Just make sure you don’t add so many that it starts to look like alphabet soup!

Be mindful of pronouns.

The pronoun field is an optional feature of LinkedIn where members can add preferred gender pronouns next to their name. 70% of job seekers believe it’s important people know their gender pronouns, and 72% of hiring managers agree, believing it shows respect.

Pronounce your name and introduce yourself.

LinkedIn also has a feature that allows you to upload a recording of how to properly say your name. Some people use this feature to quickly introduce themselves, inviting visitors to connect with them. If you’re struggling with how to pronounce a recruiter or hiring manager’s name, check their profile to see if they’ve taken advantage of this feature, too.

Now, breathe some life into your profile! Complete every piece of it, building out each section to provide a more clear and comprehensive picture of yourself.

Choose a picture that's worth 1000 words

Choose Pictures Worth 1,000 Words

We’ve already discussed the importance of first impressions. And what’s the first thing people notice when they land on your LinkedIn profile? The photos you’ve chosen! Your profile photo and cover photo work together to showcase who you are.

When selecting a LinkedIn profile picture, make sure:

  • It clearly shows your face. You want to appear approachable and professional.
  • It is high-quality and not blurry. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a headshot from a pro photographer, but it should be high resolution.
  • It has a non-distracting background; you want to be the focus!
Open To Work Icon

LinkedIn has a feature where you can add an “Open to Work” mention to your profile photo. It’s intended to let your network know that you’re looking for a job, but there is some debate about whether or not this is a good idea. Recruiters may be turned off by the open-to-work designation, thinking you’re not in high-demand. Use your discretion.

Judi Fox LinkedIn Job Search Coach & Resume Remodeler
“Your LinkedIn Profile is essential for job searching. Over 98% of recruiters use LinkedIn and they expect to see a LinkedIn Profile that confirms what you are sharing on your resume. Have a current profile photo and a SEO-effective headline for search. Highlight results throughout your Experience and About sections. Comment on posts from the companies, industries, and recruiters that are connected to the jobs you want.”

Judi Fox

LINKEDIN JOB SEARCH COACH & RESUME REMODELER

Benefit from the Power of Video

Video is an excellent way for job seekers to stand out from other job candidates.

LinkedIn’s video cover story feature allows members to upload a short video of themselves. This is the perfect way to showcase your personality and demonstrate soft skills to recruiters and hiring managers. If you choose to do this, an orange ring will appear around your profile photo, and a preview of your video will auto-play silently within the photo frame, enticing visitors to watch it. You may also want to experiment with Creator Mode, which visually displays examples of your best work, and Service Pages, which lists the services you offer. This is particularly helpful if you’re open to freelance work or have a side hustle you’d like to promote. These LinkedIn options are a great way to make your profile more visual and engaging.
79% Illustration

79% of hiring managers believe that video has become more important when vetting job candidates.

Crafting Your Career Story

Now let’s consider the written parts of your profile. Your LinkedIn profile is a great place to express your passions, highlight your accomplishments, explain your journey, and touch on your career aspirations. Show the world what you have to offer!

Here’s how to do it:

  • Write a short—but compelling—headline that speaks to your line of work and the skills/experience you have. Think of it as your own personal tagline. Really sell yourself!

  • Use the summary section to dive into details about who you are and what makes you unique. Tell readers a little more about yourself, and include things like major accomplishments, special projects, awards, and anything else that sets you apart. If you have a blog or a personal website, be sure to include a link to it here, too.

  • Optimize your profile for search. As you’re writing both your headline and your summary section, be sure to incorporate the right keywords. This can increase the likelihood employers will find you on LinkedIn. Include words that relate to your skills and your professional niche.

  • Feature your favorite posts, documents, media, and websites. Take advantage of this opportunity to showcase some of your best work.

  • Add your experience and education. We’ll talk much more about this topic in the resume section of this article. For now, just know that it’s crucial to be honest and consistent when you summarize your educational and professional background.

  • To support your career story and appear more well-rounded, you can also consider adding volunteer work and interests.

While you’re improving your profile, be attentive and try to minimize mistakes. Things like misspellings show carelessness. You want to demonstrate that you’re observant and show attention to detail—skills that can help improve your employability!

Use these tips to clean up your profile as best you can, and then ask someone you trust to look it over, too. Ask for direct feedback and make adjustments over time to enhance it.

Making the Most of LinkedIn

Let’s talk about how to use the LinkedIn platform to maximize its potential.
 Don't Treat your LinkedIn Like Social Media

Pro tip:

Don’t treat your LinkedIn profile like other (non-career focused) social media platforms. Make every effort to remain professional—without losing your personality.

Build Your Network

Since LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, it’s all about making meaningful connections with others. Start building your network by connecting with people you already know: your friends, family, people you’ve worked with (past and present), schoolmates, teachers/professors, and mentors. Then, gradually widen your network by reaching out to people who interest you. You may discover influencers in your space, or connect with people who are a second- or third-degree connection. Reach out with a personalized connection invitation. Mention something that stood out to you on the person’ profile, or tell them why you’d like to connect. Share some context; don’t just use the same generic invite for everyone. Keep building your network over time. That work is never truly finished. You never know who you’ll meet, when your paths may cross, and what exciting, new doors the right connection(s) may open.

Seek Recommendations and Endorsements

As you build your network on LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to ask the people you connect with to share a recommendation about you. This can be short and sweet, but public testimonials from people who can attest to your work ethic and winning personality do wonders in shaping the perception of potential employers. You can also ask people in your LinkedIn network to endorse specific skills you have. When multiple people agree that you are skilled at X thing (and they’re willing to vouch for that!), it can help convince recruiters you have the necessary skills for the job.

Keep Your Profile Current and Stay Engaged

Once you’ve made your LinkedIn profile as good as it can be, it’s easy to neglect it. But don’t! It doesn’t run on auto-pilot. Keep your profile relevant. Update it right away whenever something noteworthy happens, like you get a new certification or a promotion. Even if you are happily employed, add a recurring reminder in your calendar to update it every few months. Stay active on the platform by sharing posts and articles, and by liking and commenting on others’ posts. Actively engaging on LinkedIn keeps your profile fresh and visible to a larger audience of people who can help you throughout your career.

How to Create a Modern Resume that Gets Noticed

It’s time to discuss the oldest job seeking tool in the book: the traditional resume!

The term CV (short for curriculum vitae) is more common in the U.K., but in North America, resumes are slightly different from CVs. A CV is usually a comprehensive document detailing your education, research experience, certifications, licenses, awards, and professional affiliations. Conversely, a resume is a short summary of your work history and skills.

The Fundamentals of a Great Resume

First and foremost, be honest! Tell the truth, minimize embellishment, and don’t try to take credit for what was actually a team effort. While it’s fine to say you led a project or a team, recognize the work others did, too.

Do not include a photo of yourself. The only expectation to this rule is if you happen to be applying for a modeling or acting agency. Even then, you may have better luck with a text-based resume.

Omit your full address. Adding it used to be standard practice, but that was when correspondence was done mostly through mail. In our digital age, it’s no longer necessary—and it may introduce privacy and discrimination concerns.

Be careful with your words. Take care to correct any errors.

Illustration of a Resume
Spelling Mistake illustration in the word Government 61% Icon

61% of recruiters will automatically dismiss a resume if it contains typos.

Make sure your contact information is correct. After all, the goal of a resume is to motivate an employer to contact you! Include the best phone number for people to reach you, as well as a professional email address. Warning: if you’re still using something like [email protected], it’s 100% time to open a new email address for work-related purposes.
76% Icon

76% of the time resumes will be rejected because of an unprofessional email address.

Add a link to your website or LinkedIn profile (especially now that it looks so great!). Your resume is a great high-level document, but it’s made even better when hiring teams can click through to learn more about you online. Change up the outdated “objective” section of your resume. Instead, write a new summary statement! Here’s the subtle difference: an objective says what you want out of the role, while a summary statement says what you can bring to the position. That’s what recruiters want to know!

Types of Resumes

Of course, a big part of your resume consists of your work experience. There are three ways to display this kind of information:

1.) Chronological

  • Highlights which companies you’ve worked for, the dates of your employment, and your responsibilities
  • Easy to see career progression (or employment gaps) in this format
  • HR professionals tend to prefer the traditional reverse chronological format, where you list your current or most recent job first

2.) Functional

  • Places more emphasis on marketable skills rather than your work history
  • Good format for people just entering the workforce, those with employment gaps, and job seekers embarking on a career change

3.) Combination

  • Combines the chronological and the functional resume formats
  • Emphasizes relevant achievements rather than your whole career
Regardless of which format you choose, your resume should be no more than one (at the absolute most two) pages. If it’s longer than that, it’s time to cut the fat.

Position Yourself as Capable—And Back It Up

We recommend using the Laszlo Bock’s formula when writing about your expertise and work experience. Laszlo Bock is a former Google senior vice president of personnel operations who promoted the idea of framing your work in this way:

Accomplished X as measured by Y by doing Z Equation
Create a bullet list of your job responsibilities, leading with what you’re most proud of or what takes the most of your time during work hours. Focus on the important activities, and omit trivial duties and occasional tasks. Begin each bullet with a descriptive action verb in the present tense for your current job(s) (e.g., manage, coordinate, create) and past tense for work you’re no longer doing (e.g., supervised, assisted, succeeded). It’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Walk it wisely. You want yourself to come across as employable, but open to learning new things and collaborating with others. The more you know, the more you realize there is to know!

How to Create an ATS-Friendly Resume

A lot of job seekers are not familiar with the term ATS, an abbreviation of applicant tracking system. However, all recruiters know about this technology—and most of them use it, too.
98% Icon

Over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS of some kind. Many smaller businesses do, too.

The intended purpose of an ATS is to keep track of those who apply for work at a particular organization. An ATS scans and filters incoming resumes, forwarding only the most “best fit” resumes to hiring teams.
60% Icon

If your resume is not scannable, you cut your odds of advancing to the next stage of consideration by 60%.

Of course, some resumes are more difficult to scan than others. It helps to understand the basics of resume-scanning technology. Most ATS algorithms look for specific keywords, especially words matching those used in the job description. To increase the likelihood that your resume passes the ATS test, try to incorporate skills that come up more than once in the job posting or appear near the top of the requirements and responsibilities sections. Be cautious about adding too much flair. After all, your resume is still a professional document. Over-designed resumes are also harder for applicant tracking systems to read. More on this in our next section about design. When applying for a job electronically, if you can, attach both a Word .doc and a PDF version. The Word file type may be easier for resume-scanning software to read, but the PDF is guaranteed to retain its formatting. It’s the best of both worlds!

Modern Resume Design

The wrong resume formatting and a poor layout can be off putting. Here are some ideas to modernize and refresh your resume.
  • Opt for a clean, simple layout with plenty of white space, wide margins, and bold headings.
  • When selecting a font, choose a common, legible one like Calibri or Arial. Size 12 is standard.
  • Instead of long paragraphs, use easy-to-skim bullet points. Stick to the standard circle or square bullets.
  • You might consider adding a pop of colour; perhaps incorporate an accent like the brand color of the company where you’re applying. But when in doubt, stick to black text. It’s a classic.

Parting Advice:

  • Make sure the final saved file includes your full name and the word “resume.” This makes it easy for hiring teams to identify.
  • Ask a friend or mentor to proofread your resume. They should be looking for typos and anything that might be confusing, as well as assessing overall professionalism.
  • Last, but not least, as you close out your resume, don’t write “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom. This is a rookie mistake as it goes without saying; you’ll provide references if you’re asked about to. Simple as that.
Video Resume Illustration

Video Resumes

While we’re on the topic of modernizing your resume, have you considered creating a video resume? This format can be a great accompaniment to a traditional resume, especially within creative professions such as graphic design, videography, and fashion. While video resumes are usually optional, they are becoming as commonplace as video interviewing.

57% Icon

57% of job seekers feel sharing a video with hiring managers allows them to better highlight their personality.

If you decide to make a video resume, keep it between one and two minutes. You can use some of the messaging you’ve perfected while improving your resume, but don’t just repeat it word for word. Speak directly into the lens of your camera, introduce yourself, and explain why you applied for the job and what you can offer that employer. Invite them to contact you to learn more! You could also use video editing software to splice in examples of your work. Once finished, consider uploading your video resume onto YouTube (adjust the sharing settings as desired). This way, you’ll have a link you can add to your resume or LinkedIn profile, making the video easier to share with prospective employers.

Writing a Great Cover Letter

Cover letters used to be a near must in any search for employment, but times are changing. Some employers don’t ask for them anymore, and many job seekers think there are modern alternatives..
61% Icon

61% of job seekers believe a recorded video could be the next iteration of the traditional cover letter.

However, submitting a cover letter is still part of many application processes—especially for jobs that require strong writing skills. Since cover letters are often encouraged, here are some tips for when you write them.

Keep It Short

Good cover letters say a lot in a short amount of space. They’re concise and they’re not laborious to read. Most cover letters follow a three-to-five-paragraph format where you briefly introduce yourself and summarize what makes you a good fit for the position. Like you did in the written sections of your LinkedIn profile, use the cover letter as an opportunity to express yourself. Show some passion and personality! Try to be sincere. Your cover letter should be no more than one page—sometimes even half a page is enough.

Tailor Your Cover Letter to Each Employer

Don’t say the same thing to every employer. Your cover letter should be customized for each of the roles you’re applying for. So, it’s not a good idea to just copy/paste the title of the position and add something generic like ‘To Whom it May Concern’ at the top. You can certainly create a timesaving template and recycle some of your best sentences and main points. Just make an effort to personalize each cover letter as much as you can. Do some research and include the hiring manager’s name (or at least address the letter to a specific department head). If any details in the job description stood out to you, mention them here. Some employers will ask you to include a reference number within your cover letter, so read the instructions carefully.

Emphasize How Employers Can Benefit

Don’t make the cover letter all about you and how great it’d be if you got the position. Employers already know you’ll benefit from getting the job. They want to learn what you can bring to the role and company as a whole. This is an opportunity for you to make that pitch. You want to stand out from other candidates.
Lissa Appiah, Certified Resume & Career Strategist at WeApply
“Instead of starting your cover letter with a generic line such as ‘I am submitting my candidacy for X role,’ get the reader’s attention with something different. Flatter the organization, make reference to a recent blog post or company development, and always align what you have to offer with the organization’s needs.”

Lissa Appiah

CERTIFIED RESUME & CAREER STRATEGIST

WeApply

After you’ve completed a draft, shift your attention to another project and then, later, look at your cover letter with fresh eyes. This often makes it easier to spot typos and grammar mistakes, which can shortchange your best efforts. You may want to ask someone else to review it as well, making revisions until it’s the best it can be. Once you’re happy with your cover letter, save the file so that its title matches how you saved your resume (e.g., Leslie-Knope-Cover-Letter). Make it easy for recruiters to see what the attachment is.

Applying for Work

Now that you’ve got all the fundamentals in place to properly market yourself to employers—a killer cover letter, a professional resume, and an engaging LinkedIn profile—it’s time to apply for work! You’ll likely submit your application online. As we’ve discussed, it’s important to tailor your cover letter and resume to each of the positions you’re applying for. Try to mirror what you have to offer with the job description, but be honest! Where to Start One of the best ways to start your career search is by creating a list of organizations where you’d love to work. If you’re not sure where to begin, do some employer research on a site like Glassdoor. Once you’ve got a shortlist, check the career sections of the company websites to see if there are any openings. If there aren’t any that are a good fit for you, don’t fret!
70% Icon

As part of the ‘hidden job market’, an estimated 70% of jobs are not advertised.

If you really want to work somewhere, don’t rule it out simply because there are no public listings. Try to find contact information for someone on the hiring team, and reach out to them as you would any employer with open positions.

Common Job Search Websites

The job(s) you apply for will depend on your profession and where you are in your career. Some of the most popular sites for finding work include:
LinkedIn Logo Indeed Logo Monster Logo ZipRecruiter Logo LinkUp Logo Flexjobs Logo Scouted. Logo snapajob logo

The Importance of Networking

A big part of securing fulfilling work is networking with the right people.
70% Icon

85% of all jobs are filled via networking.

Start with a ‘foot in the door’ technique. Who do you already know in the industry or company where you’d like to work? Don’t forget friends and coworkers who might be able to help you in your job search. For more info, reference the ‘Making the Most of LinkedIn’ section of this article (particularly the part about how to build your network).

Pivoting throughout Your Career

There was a time when employees typically kept the same job for many years—or even their whole life! Now, that’s rare.

Employees with Different Jobs

Employees hold an average of 12 different jobs in their lifetime.

You’ve already done the hard work of preparing and perfecting your resume, cover letter, and online presence. So, now might be the right time to take a measured risk. If you’ve been thinking about pursuing a different line of work, go for it!
Adam Karpiak, President of Karpiak Consulting
“Don’t let people tell you that you can’t pivot. You aren’t doomed to a lifetime of a career you don’t want. It’s simple…if you have the skills, apply.”

Adam Karpiak

PRESIDENT

Karpiak Consulting

Climbing a Mountain Illustration

Lifelong Professional Development

Invest time and/or money in advancing your lifelong learning. It’ll benefit you—and your employer!

Professional development is an ongoing pursuit that doesn’t stop in the early years of your career. You want to proactively seek out opportunities to upskill and maintain a strong work ethic as your career advances.

Many people attempt to separate their professional and personal lives, but this is somewhat unrealistic given the amount of time people spend at work.
33% Icon

of your life is spent at work.

90000 Hours Worked Illustration

You’ll spend ~90,000 hours at work over a lifetime.

Often it boils down to who you are as a person and how that measures up to your career aspirations. There’s lots of work one can do in this respect. You may collaborate with a mentor/career coach, or you may dive into the crux of the matter.

Jonathan Tesser Career Whisperer for Young Adults
“Professional development sometimes comes down to working on yourself on a personal level, too. Consider seeing a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Work with someone the same way an Olympic swimmer works with someone to keep getting better at their craft. It’s about working with our minds—not against them—to be the best possible version of ourselves.”
Perseverance and Optimism Illustration

Perseverance and Optimism in Your Job Search

Don’t get discouraged throughout your job search. Try your best to persevere and stay positive, even when you’re rejected.

Your career search is ultimately an exercise in matchmaking; not every job will be the right fit for you, and you won’t be the right fit for every job. It’s a two-way street in that respect, and while rejection is never fun, it is part of life. Try not to take it personally. Just like there are many fish in the sea, there are lots of different career paths and opportunities awaiting you.

So, get yourself excited about your chances of getting the job! If it turns out that’s not the path for you, pick yourself up and carry on with confidence and professionalism. Don’t give up.

Happy Job Hunting!