How to Get a Job: 7 Tips for Applying in 2017

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how to get a job

The U.S. unemployment rate hit its lowest point in more than a decade in May 2017. What does that mean for job seekers? Ninety percent of recruiters say candidates have the upper hand in the job market, according to a 2017 survey by recruiting firm MRINetwork.

“Candidates are in higher demand,” said one survey respondent, a recruiter. “There are more open positions than qualified, interested and motivated candidates to fill them.”

As a job seeker, you may have the market going for you, but you still need to nail the job search and application process to land your ideal gig. Here are seven tips for how to get a job:

    1. Make a habit of networking
    2. Practice pitching your personal brand
    3. Learn how the hiring process typically works
    4. Clean up your online presence
    5. Apply even if you’re not 100% qualified
    6. Include keywords in your resume and cover letter
    7. Follow up appropriately

1. Make a habit of networking

The idea of networking may be intimidating, but getting comfortable with it will make landing a job significantly easier. Forty-five percent of people who had looked for a job in the previous two years said personal or professional connections were the most important resource in their most recent job search, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. Here are several ways to network:

    • Attend events: Find local events related to your industry, such as trade group meetings or happy hours with your school’s alumni group.
    • Make connections online: Use LinkedIn or your school’s alumni job board to find people you know in your desired industry and introduce yourself to people you’d like to get to know personally or professionally.
    • Conduct informational interviews: Once you make initial connections either in person or online, schedule chats with people to learn more about certain industries, roles or companies.

While online networking can be a good place to start, job seekers shouldn’t rely solely on online connections, says Paul McDonald, a senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half.

“It’s important to get out from behind the computer and meet face-to-face in a group setting,” McDonald says.

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2. Practice pitching your personal brand

You’ll be more confident in attending networking events if you’ve prepared a short spiel about yourself, your professional experience and what you’re looking for careerwise. Before attending your next networking event, practice your pitch with a mentor, friend or family member. In about 30 seconds, you should be able to explain:

  • Who you are
  • A brief history of your education and career background
  • Your career interests and goals

Think like a marketer when you’re crafting your personal elevator pitch and application materials, says Helene Cruz, director of career counseling at Pace University’s New York City campus.

“You’re the product,” Cruz says. “What makes you unique?”

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3. Learn how the hiring process typically works

Before you dive into applying for jobs, it’s helpful to understand what to expect. Every company is different, but here’s how the process often works:

    • Job seekers apply online and the application goes into the employer’s applicant tracking system, a software program that the employer uses to conduct the hiring process
    • A recruiter or human resources professional will review the applications and follow up with some candidates for first-round interviews
    • Candidates who pass the first-round interview move on to an interview with the hiring manager. A hiring manager is typically the candidate’s potential supervisor.

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4. Clean up your online presence

Assume prospective employers will check your social media pages. More than 80% of employers and 90% of recruiters review candidates’ social media profiles sometimes or all the time, according to the MRINetwork survey. Strip your profiles of posts containing partying photos or vulgar language, or change your settings to make your profile more private.

Make sure the information on your LinkedIn profile matches your resume, says Stephanie Lonn, a senior recruiter at the restaurant chain Eatsa. Seeing LinkedIn profiles with dates that don’t match candidates’ resumes, for instance, makes Lonn question candidates’ honesty and attention to detail, she says. Use a professional headshot for LinkedIn, McDonald adds.

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5. Apply even if you’re not 100% qualified

You don’t have to meet every single requirement in the job description to apply for a position. It’s worth applying if you meet about 70% of them, McDonald says. If you’re looking at a position with a competitor of your previous employer, apply even if you fit only 60% of the description because you’ll bring valuable industry knowledge to the role, he adds.

Instead of focusing on the parts of the job you don’t qualify for, play up soft skills you have that aren’t listed in the description. For instance, an understanding of the industry and comfort with public speaking are skills many employers will find worthwhile, McDonald says.

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6. Include keywords in your resume and cover letter

Tailor each resume and cover letter to the job you’re applying for by including keywords from the job description, Lonn says. Doing so may increase the odds that a recruiter picks your application from the bunch.

That’s because some recruiters — particularly those at large companies — may not read all the applications they receive for each job opening, she says. Instead, they’ll search the applicant tracking system for applications containing relevant keywords.

For example, a recruiter filling a software engineering position might do a search for a specific programming language to pinpoint candidates who have experience in coding in that language, Lonn says.

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7. Follow up appropriately

Before you leave the first interview, ask the recruiter or hiring manager how far along the company is in the hiring process. This will help set your expectations about when you’ll hear back.

“Get a sense of what their time frame is so you don’t feel like a pest when you’re following up,” Cruz says.

Regardless of the employer’s timeline, send a thank-you note or email within 24 hours after the interview. A thoughtful note will show your interest in the position and appreciation for the employer’s consideration.

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Teddy Nykiel is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.