As we move into the middle of the first week back at work for most folks, let’s look at what’s necessary to land a position – the basics:

• Know your target. A scattershot approach will never work. Evaluate what your passion is (or what you think it is if you’re just starting out and don’t yet know or are changing careers) and focus on that. Identify organizations that offer you the ability to fulfill your passion.
• Ensure that your resume is up to date. Most importantly, make sure it is error free. There is NO excuse for errors on your resume. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Then make sure that it accurately reflects your knowledge, skills, and abilities (in the Human Resources world, these are known as the “KSA’s”).
• It is likely that you will need more than one resume so that your accomplishments can be showcased for each particular position for which you apply. A cookie cutter resume will not work.
• Your cover letter: the same logic applies to cover letters that apply to resumes. No errors. Even more customization for each position. Some argue that people do not read cover letters. In many cases, that is true; but, you will not know that in advance and having one that is well done will never hurt; not having one will definitely hurt. This gives you another opportunity to showcase your background – why not take it?
• Network, network, network. Sitting in front of a computer all day is unlikely to land you a position. There is value in using a variety of job boards to seek out advertised jobs, and even to research organizations. The reality is that less than 5% of positions are advertised. The other 95% of possibilities will come from people that you know, from your research, and from networking.
• To network, have your 30 second (or one minute if you’re more experienced) “commercial” (or “branding statement” or “value statement” or “elevator speech”) or whatever you want to call it ready to go. Have it ready to succinctly share with everyone – you can tailor it on the spot if you’re fast on your feet; otherwise, use it as you have it in your head. Practice it. In the mirror. With friends. With colleagues. Make sure it works.
• Be prepared to be successful in both phone and in-person interviews. You may actually be more relaxed on the phone – but, it can be a harder interview. Remember that the person on the other end can’t see you, so they can’t read your expressions, gestures, mannerisms, etc. So, you have to project those using your voice. Stand up and walk around while speaking – this makes you feel (and in fact makes you) more confident. You sound more confident. Even if you’re still in your pajamas and sipping (quietly!) a cup of coffee. For in-person interviews, always dress for the role – if you’re applying for a labor job, you don’t need to wear a suit and tie; but, even if the job is a “business casual” office, you can’t go wrong with a suit and tie or a skirt and jacket. This is part of your research, but if you are unsure, you can ask (I don’t recommend that) or just dress up. It’s hard to be overdressed except in the most obvious of situations; it’s very easy to be underdressed. Be ready with examples of specific accomplishments that you can point to that are related to the job. You can likely surmise the tenor of the questions that you are likely to be asked by carefully reviewing the job description, advertisement, notes from your colleagues, and any other information about the organization and the role that you may have. Give them a reason to hire you!!
• A lost art is the art of the thank you note. Most don’t send them. There is no excuse not to. First, it’s polite and professional. Second, it gives you the opportunity to reiterate your key strengths and/or accomplishments, and to remind the receiver of your conversation. If you meet with more than one person, tailor each note with a personal touch about something you spoke with that person about or that they brought up during a panel interview. This will show that you were paying attention, are serious, and can highlight all that you have to offer.

© 2010, Michael Trust & Associates, All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR-CA is a Human Resources and Career Coaching professional, and president of Michael Trust & Associates,, a Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching firm. His Human Resources experience spans twenty years, and he has had major roles in staffing in all of his Human Resource positions. In addition, he has coached individuals at all career levels relative to their career paths, job search strategies, and related areas.