The 8 Stages of a Winning Job Search

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By Arnie Fertig

Here's your job-search road map.

No matter what your occupation or level of experience is, the process of getting a new job has several common elements. Once you understand the progression as a whole, you are less likely to make mistakes along the way. Here are the stages you'll most likely pass through on your way to your next position

Figuring out your value

People get hired for one reason: They represent the best possible answer to an employer's need to have X work done. Somehow that X contributes to increasing sales or productivity or decreasing risk and expenses. As a job hunter, it is your responsibility to understand and convey how you can contribute to the advancement of any employer's mission. What about your skills, education and experience will enable you to make a significant contribution to your next employer?Figuring out your value

Determining your target

Figure out the type of company that will generally need someone like you, and consider what kind of environment you will feel comfortable and productive in. What industry? What organization size? What type of products or services? What kind of role? Tolearn about organizations in your area, you can do a great deal of research on LinkedIn. Specialized databases like Hoovers, accessible through most public libraries, can be invaluable. Support this research with informational interviews with key leaders in your field.

Crafting your brand and message

For whatever role you seek, you will likely face strong competition from many candidates with similar backgrounds as yours. Focus on the qualities, experience and expertise that set you apart from the pack. Develop a personal branding statement, which, in essence, is the answer to the first question at every interview: Tell me about yourself (and what sets you apart from your competition). Develop a consistent message, and present it at the top of your résumé and LinkedIn profile.


Now it's time to start prospecting for jobs. There are numerous ways to go about this by scouting posted positions on company Web pages, job boards, LinkedIn, Indeed and so on. But remember: About 80 percent of new hires come about from personal networking. Get out there, and attend professional events, such as symposia, conferences, conventions and trade shows. Network with fellow college alumni, people in your community and Meetup groups. In short: Network anywhere, everywhere and all the time!

Determining the rough fit in a phone interview

In most situations, an employer will sift through many résumés to do a "rough cut" of people who appear to exceed the minimum job requirements. Typically, an internal recruiter or human resources representative will then call, say some flattering things and set up a phone screening. Don't mistake statements like "you appear to have what we are looking for" as anything more than a general indication of interest. You don't have the job yet! Read about how to ace a phone interview.

Dealing with red flags

Part of the screening process is to take a look at anything that might be disqualifying for an otherwise potentially strong candidate. Things such as employment gaps, too many or too few career transitions and a host of other factors might cause concern. Take time to figure out what your obvious red flags are, and be prepared to help your interviewer lower them.

Making your case

This, of course, is what happens at any face-to-face job interview. Come prepared for whatever can be thrown at you. Know your résumé inside and out, and be able to expand on everything you have written in it. Read books andarticles about interviewing, and prepare. However, don't overprepare so much that your answers seem rehearsed. You can't fake sincerity and should never misrepresent what you've done.

Negotiating the deal

You will always be in a stronger position to negotiate when you wait until the competition has been eliminated. Then you don't have to worry about selling yourself too short. At the same time, remember that you want to start out on a good foot, with neither you nor the employer feeling dragged over the coals in a protracted or contentious negotiation. Talk about objective criteria rather than vague wants, and give a solid justification for whatever requests you make.
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