The Job Search: Tips, Tricks, and Hints

Close up of vintage typewriter machineSearching for a job can end up being a full time job in itself. You are putting in the leg work but getting no where. With our current economy and unemployment rates I thought that an article with some information for the everyday person could be of some use. I have an HR degree and have enough experience to share and hopefully help some of you in your search.

Get familiar with popular job search sites. I like craigslist and best but there is also,; the list is endless. You can also look at the websites of businesses in your area as well as the website of the city you live in. Before you even start looking at job postings you need to do your homework to make the entire process more efficient and less daunting.

Prep Work

Decide your salary range. Know what you are worth; take into account your related expenses such as childcare, gas, and a work wardrobe. Know your range in weekly, monthly, and annual terms.  This will save you time by helping you to avoid jobs that sound amazing, but do not pay enough to cover your expenses.

$15/hr = $600/wk @ 40 hrs = $31,200 annually @ 52 weeks.

Not a bad salary but then you have to look at your expenses: $400 in childcare, $50 in gas, $20 on misc. You are spending $470 of your $600 (pre-tax) pay which equates to you working for less than $130 a week or $3.25 hour. Either you need to reexamine your expenses or your salary.

How far are you willing to commute? In areas with particularly horrid traffic this can be a big issue. Normally a 30 mile commute is 30 to 45 minutes depending on traffic. However, in larger urban areas this could be a deal breaker. For example, the job site my husband is at 90% of the time is 35 miles from home. He has to drive through Portland, OR everyday and he sits in traffic anywhere from 2 to 6 hours a day. You have to decide if the total compensation package is worth a long or difficult commute.

Stay Organized. Depending on your personal preference either keep a ‘Job Search’ file on your computer, a notebook, or both of all job search related materials. I am slightly OCD so I use both. In this article I will refer to my ‘notebook’ or ‘job search’ file. You have to stay organized especially when applying to multiple job postings. In my job search file is anything that has and will be sent in response to a job posting such as my cover letter and resume. In my notebook you will find all job posting information and a cover letter draft. Below is an outline of how my notebook is set up.

*You want to stay on top of what you have applied for. Nothing says don’t hire me like saying “Which job are you talking about?” when a recruiter calls.

Page 1 – Description At the top I write the position title and where I found the posting. Next I write the name and address of the business when available, salary and working days if available, and the requirements of applying and where to apply. Lastly, I write out the job description. After I have applied to a position I put a check at the top of the page and the date that I applied.

Page 2 – Targeted Cover Letter

I will go more into cover letters later. I write out a letter specific to each position that I apply for. I later type these in a Word document and ‘save as’ either the company name or position title in my job search file.
Page 3 – Notes

I use this page when called for an interview. First I write down all of the information about the actual interview such as date and time and what the dress is. I use the rest of the page to write down my research notes about the company and any questions that I may have for the interviewer.

The Triple Threat: Cover Letter, Resume, and Thank You letter

The Cover Letter

Try using specific terms found in the job listing in your cover letter and resume. Many times, more so with larger companies, your cover letter and resume go through a computer before ever being seen by a human being. The computer is programmed to track the words found in the posting to see how many of those same words and terms match from your documents. The computer is the pre-qualifier. If you have enough matches then your information is passed on to the next phase in the application process.

I prefer to use targeted cover letters, meaning they are specific to the position that I am applying for. This does not mean that I am whipping out a new letter from scratch each time either. In my job search file I have a basic cover letter that I use as a guide adding information and changing wording depending on the position.

Greeting – one paragraph-what job you are applying for and where you heard about it

-what drew you to apply for the position

Body – one to two paragraphs

-tell them specific experiences that prove you can perform the job duties-expand on a skill as it relates to the position

“At my previous job I managed multiple projects ensuring that the project staff stayed on or ahead of schedule while maintaining the integrity of our products and exemplifying our core values and mission.”

-use the cover letter to entice an employer to want to know more about you, show how you will be an asset

Closing – one paragraph

-express your desire to meet and speak, be specific with dates and times if possible

-include your contact info

-include salary requirements if requested

“I look forward to speaking with you about my marketing skills and how I will be an asset to The Book Buyer. I can be reached at 555-555-5555 or any time after 10am.”

A few cover letter do’s. Do save all of your cover letters for reference. Do make sure that all of your material is formatted the same: font, text size, and layout. Keep your letter to three or four paragraphs. Remember, they have your resume already so do not repeat what is in it. If you do not have a name you can address the letter Dear Sir, Dear Human Resources Manager, etc. or (I prefer) no greeting. The box below shows the basic layout for the cover letter. Keep in mind if you are going to use a template from the internet for your letter change the wording so that you and 300 other people are not turning in the same letter. Most importantly triple check your spelling and grammar.

Salary Requirements

I find salary requirements tricky. You don’t want to undervalue yourself, but at the same time you don’t want to sound greedy. This goes back to your prep work. Give a salary range that you are comfortable with and do some research. is a great website for looking up salary information. You can also give and range followed by “My salary is negotiable depending upon the overall compensation package.”

The Resume

Have you ever heard “Keep your resume on one page”? Well it’s true. Think about the last time you went to the book store. You pick up a book that looks interesting. Do you read the whole first chapter? No, you read the first paragraph of the inside jacket. If it doesn’t catch your attention quickly chances are you are setting it down and moving on. Same concepts with a resume, one page, make it count.

You want to list your education, skills, award/achievements, professional organizations, and work history. If you have any major gaps in your employment give a brief explanation in your cover letter. Use your space creatively. Change around wording and font size but remember to keep consistent with the formatting in all of your job related documents. You are not listing every detail of your professional life rather an overview. Use your interview to expand on the information in your resume. It is okay to send any work samples relevant to the positions as attachments just remember to mention this in your cover letter. You want your resume to be neat, clean, and readable. Think of it as an outline that your interviewer will go by.

As far as references go you can put ‘references available upon request’ or go ahead and include them as a second page to your resume or separate attachment. I have two different resumes in my job search file. One is my regular resume saved as a Word document and as a PDF then I have another resume targeted at marketing positions also saved as a Word document and a PDF. If a job posting asks for your resume in a PDF format there are plenty of websites that will transfer it for free. I like to use

Salary History

If you are asked to provide a salary history with your resume here are 5 easy steps for creating a basic history.

  1. Copy and paste your resume into a new document.
  2. Delete all sections except your work history. The only thing on your sheet should be your heading (name, address, contact info) and your work history.
  3. Rename the ‘work history’ section as ‘Salary History’
  4. For each job, replace your duties with two or three accomplishments followed by your salary. See example below.
  5. Save your salary history in your job search file.
2007-2009            Jr.     Sales Manager             ABC     Publishing
  •          Highest sales 7 out of 10 quarters
  •          Speaker at the 2009 International Publishing     Conference
  •         $40000 annually plus commission and bonus

The Thank You Letter

  Dear Mrs. Jones,

                   Thank you for meeting with me yesterday about the Senior Director of Marketing  position. It is always nice to meet a fellow Floridian so far from home.     The direction of your new marketing plan is a great jump off point for increased profitability and brand awareness. I can execute this plan in a way that will exceed your expectations and prove that I am a vital asset to The Book Buyer.

Best Wishes,

Wilma Flintstone

Often dismissed as unimportant, the after interview thank you letter is vital component in the job search process. The thank you letter gives you one last chance to make an impression. Make sure that you have all of your interviewers contact information before leaving the interview. Make your letter short and sweet, refer to something personal and something professional that you discussed in the interview, and sell yourself.

Other Helpful Hints

  •           I bring copies of my cover letter, resume, references, salary history, along with any work samples to every interview. That way you have everything at your fingertips if the interviewer asks. Also it is proper interview etiquette to have a copy of resume in hand to present to the interviewer.
  •          Spelling and Grammar. All of your documents should be checked obsessively for correct spelling and proper grammar. If you are not taking the time to make sure the materials you are presenting to a potential employer are perfect what does that tell the potential employer about your work ethic?
  •          Research. Learn what you can about the place that you are applying. Research their web site, reviews, press releases, etc. You want to show that you are already invested in being part of their team and there is a good chance they are going to ask questions to see if you did in fact do some homework.
  •           Do you use social media? So do employers. Often an employer will social media stalk you looking at your facebook, twitter, instagram, linkedin, etc. Be sure there are no inappropriate pictures and/or photos. Your bathroom selfie session is not going to attract an employer, not matter how awesome your hair is!
  •           Speaking of Linkedin are you a member? This social media site is a great tool to market your professional self. It is an online resume of sorts that allows you to make a professional network. It is also a great resource for online professional groups. Put some thought into creating your profile. Employers use this site as a recruiting tool.
  •          DON’T GET DISCOURAGED! You have had 20 interviews but are still unemployed….. so what. You are not the only one looking for work. Look at our unemployment rates if you don’t believe me. I was bartending one night a few years back and happened to have two recruiters from the largest airplane manufacturer in the world sitting at my bar. Their company had just opened a factory in SC. They told me that they had posted a job which had ten open positions. Over 5000 people applied out of which they had to interview over 300 people. At least 290 people were disappointed in the end. Every interview is a learning experience. When you do land the job after all the hard work you put in, it will be worth it.

I truly hope that the information in this article will be of some help in making your job search a little easier. Stay positive and keep a smile on your face.

holliA Mom Knows Contributor

About Holli

Hello everyone. I live in Battle Ground Washington and am a mommy to 3 boys and one baby girl ages 10 on down. We have also lived in Summerville SC, Jacksonville FL and Seattle WA. My husbands job allows us to be nomads. I am definitely a blue collar mommy. We live on a very strict budget so I am always looking for double duty items and great consignment stores. I am not sure if my children are crazy or if it is really me that lost my sanity along time ago. There is never a dull moment in my house. As for me, I work as a freelance writer, artist, and small business consultant. In the 30 - 45 seconds of free time I get a day I like to read, draw, and do word puzzles.

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