35+ Essential Job Search Tips for 2021 [By a Career Expert]
We’ve all been in this situation at least once in our careers:
You spend days upon days going through job ads, hours upon hours tweaking your resume to fit each position, prepare to attend countless interviews and then… nothing.
You’re back right at the beginning of the cycle, going through more job ads and wondering if you’ll ever get out of this loop.
Chances are that right now, there’s something missing in your job-search process.
Maybe your resume isn’t ATS-friendly and never made it to a recruiter’s hands. Or maybe you’re not looking for ads in the right places.
Whatever it might be, we’ll teach you how to fix it with our 35+ essential job search tips!
To make this an easier read, we split up the job search tips into 3 different categories for your convenience:
- Job-Search Tips - Everything you need to know about the job-search process itself.
- Resume Tips - A resume can make or break your job search. In this section, we’ll give you all the essential tips on making a convincing resume.
- Interview Tips - Not a fan of interviews? At first, no one is! But with our interview tips, you’ll feel more confident than ever.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it!
Job-Search Tips (To Help You Find The Right Job)
Step one of the process: scouting for opportunities.
Before you dive in and apply, you need to search for places where you, your skills, and your goals would fit.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when job-searching:
#1. Identify Your Career Goals
Before beginning your job search, especially if you’re a recent graduate or you’re changing careers, you need to sort out your career goals and narrow down your search.
If you’re just looking for any random job, you won’t even know where to start your search from.
Instead, ask yourself: What industry am I aiming for? What specific position? Do I have a dream job? If yes, what steps do I need to take in order to get there?
Asking these questions will help you figure out what exactly it is that you’re looking for.
#2. Dedicate Time to the Search
Looking for a job is not a part-time engagement or a weekend activity. You need to be constantly on the lookout.
Schedule a number of hours/day or some specific days/week that you will dedicate to your job search and don’t stop until you have a few interviews lined up.
Alternatively, you can also set a goal to apply for 10 - 20 jobs on a daily basis.
If you do not have enough free time, you can use tools such as LoopCV that automates your job application process by collecting millions of job postings, matching your profile, and applies on your behalf. They do this in 4 easy steps:
- Upload your CV and define your job preferences
- Create one or more job searches (Loops)
- LoopCV will search for matches and alert you immediately
- LoopCV will apply on your behalf
#3. Don’t Limit Your Search to Online Resources
Social media has been revolutionary. As of 73% of young adults claimed they found a job through a social media website. That’s a lot!
However, it doesn’t mean you should close the door on other opportunities. Attend job fairs, reach out to hiring managers, or use a career counseling service.
Nothing bad can come out of expanding opportunities and taking advantage of all job search options.
#4. Make Networking Part of Your Everyday Life
Some positions get filled internally or through networking, without ever being published.
In fact, some experts say between 70-85% of people found their jobs through networking, and it makes sense. Companies are more likely to hire someone that comes with a recommendation from a trusted source than someone they found on the internet.
Networking is becoming one of the most efficient ways to finding a job and you should take advantage of that.
Get out there, have face to face conversations with people, build connections and strengthen already existing ones. Make sure they know where you currently are professionally and where you aim to go, and learn the same about them as well.
Rather than a task, you should look at networking as a way of living.
#5. Keep Yourself Busy
While you’re looking for a job, you can invest some of your time in improving yourself. You can take an online course, volunteer, or do an internship related to the position/industry you are trying to get into.
This will not only be a great way to expand your network of contacts, but it will also give you something new to add to your resume, and that’s always a plus.
#6. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Apart from being a great platform for networking and connecting with other professionals, LinkedIn is also a key tool in searching for and finding a job.
Did you know that every 7 seconds, someone gets hired through LinkedIn? That’s crazy!
So, what this means is that you should view your profile not only as a social media profile, but also as a resume of a kind.
Best case scenario, you’ll have recruiters reaching out and inviting YOU for jobs, not the other way around!
So, make sure to optimize your LinkedIn profile by:
- Using a professional profile photo
- Having the right headline and summary
- Keeping it up to date with your education, work experiences, and skills.
#7. Use Several Job-Search Websites
There are a ton of job-search websites out there, so picking the right one can be a bit confusing. Here are some of our favorites.
Job-search websites for everyone:
- Indeed - Type in your job title keywords and location and poof, you’ll get thousands of different company career pages. You can also create your own profile.
- LinkedIn - View job listings based on location, seniority level, etc AND network and connect with other professionals.
- Glassdoor - You can search for jobs based on job type, salary, range, and distance and also look at data for average salaries in a field or company.
- Job.com - After uploading your resume, the website uses artificial intelligence and automation to match you up with job opportunities.
- Monster - You can look for jobs based on keywords, location, etc. Bonus: You can get career advice based on your application.
Niche-based job-search websites:
- Hired - Connects tech workers with IT companies.
- Internships - Entry-level jobs, summer opportunities, paid and unpaid internships.
- Behance - Job opportunities and portfolio showcase for all creatives.
- Public Relations Society - View job listings in corporate communications, media, PR.
- ProBlogger - Job listings and resources for all kinds of writers (blogs, copy, social media, etc.).
- Workew - Remote jobs in marketing, development, UX and design, sales, writing, mostly in startups and SMBs.
- WeWorkRemotely - Remote positions in software engineering, marketing, writing, editing, customer support, etc.
#8. Do Your research
Employment is a two-way thing: You need to be the right fit for the company, but the company needs to be the right fit for you as well.
When searching for positions to apply for, don’t just go for whatever is available. Do your research and look into the company, their values, salaries etc.
If the company is not a good match, you’ll have spared both you and them the time.
You can learn more about potential employers through Glassdoor, where you can read company reviews, check salary ranges, and more.
Resume Tips (To Get Invited For That Interview)
Alright, so you did the search, found the positions you’re interested in and now it’s time for the next step: officially applying by sending in your resume.
Your resume is how you first introduce yourself to the recruiters and it’s how they form their first impression of you.
That means you should give your resume every bit of attention you can and make sure you present yourself as best as you can.
Here are our 15+ resume tips on how to do that.
#1. Use an Online Resume Builder
Ever tried making your resume using a text editor?
Then you should relate to this:
You spend hours working on your CV, tweaking it to perfection…
...And then you make a single change, and your entire layout goes poof!
In 2021, there’s no reason to make yourself go through all that pain, when you can just use a resume builder like Novoresume.
It makes the process simple, easy and also saves you a lot of time.
All of our resume templates were created with recruiters in mind - they’re easy to read, scan, and ATS-friendly.
#2. Tailor Your Resume to the Job
Recruiters only look at your resume for an average of 7 seconds before deciding if they’re interested in learning more about you or not.
You not only want to make them interested, but you want them to look at your resume and say “That’s the person we’re looking for!”
You can’t get that reaction by using the same resume for all job applications.
Instead, you should tailor your resume to each job ad by showing you have the exact skills and experiences that they are looking for.
Do they want an experienced sales agent? Instead of writing your whole work experience, you focus on the fact that you’ve worked as a sales agent for 6+ years.
They’re looking for someone familiar with accounting software? No need to mention your Photoshop skills.
Focus on what they want and convince them you have just that.
#3. Photo or No Photo?
That’s quite a discussion of its own, which in the end comes down to one thing: your location.
If you’re in the UK, Ireland, or the United States, you should NOT include a photo in your resume. Companies there are under strict anti-discrimination and labor laws and must prove that their hirings are free of any racial, gender or appearance biases.
In other countries like Austria and Belgium, it is recommended to include a photo in your resume (or CV).
If there are no specific resume rules in your country, it’s best for you to stick with a photo-free resume.
#4. Be Consistent With Formatting
It’s okay to use different font sizes for your section header and section content. In fact, it is encouraged to use more than one font size in your resume.
However, from one section to the other you should keep things consistent.
Same fonts, same sizes, same spacing.
“Hot mess” is not a good look for a resume.
Want to learn more about resume formatting? Check out our article on resume font, font size, and formats.
It might be common sense, but it’s still worth mentioning:
Avoid typos and grammatical errors!
Proofread your resume multiple times, run it through a tool like Grammarly, and even try reading it out loud to check if the sentences sound right.
#6. Cut the Fluff
Words like teamwork, communication, and leadership might seem like a good way to fill up your skills section.
Is that a good idea? Nope, not unless you can back them up.
If they’re just empty words that you think will impress the recruiter (or just fill up your resume), we recommend going back and removing them.
If you’ve written leadership as one of your skills, but have no experience in a leadership position, what point does that mean?
It means that you don’t have a realistic outlook on your skillset (or you don’t have anything meaningful to say).
Instead, make the most of the skills section by mentioning skills that make you a unique candidate, and are backed up by your work experience.
#7. Don’t Use Personal Pronouns
This is your resume. It’s kind of a given that what’s mentioned in it applies to you.
So, instead of being repetitive and starting everything with “I did…”, get straight to the point with what it is that you did.
- “Generated over $20,000 in sales in one month.”
- “I generated over $20,000 in sales in one month.”
#8. Use a Resume Objective or Summary
The first thing recruiters have a look at is your resume header. A good way to catch their attention right then and there is including a resume objective or summary.
Both of them serve as a concentrated introduction to you and your qualification, but they differ in that:
A resume objective is a 2-3 sentence snapshot of your professional skills and aspirations. It’s best used when you’re searching for your first job or changing careers.
- Example of a resume objective: “Recent Marketing graduate looking to start my career in the advertising industry at Company X. Creative and skilled in graphic design. Previous experience in developing pricing strategies as a marketing intern.”
A resume summary is… well, a summary of the rest of your resume. It’s 2-3 sentences that highlight your position, biggest achievements, and top skills. It’s what you should use if you’ve previously worked in this position or field.
- Example of a resume summary: “Marketing manager with 5+ years of experience in product marketing. Experience in social media marketing, including Facebook and Linkedin strategies. Successfully managed accounts with monthly budgets of over $30,000.”
#9. Direct Only to Relevant Social Media
Do you have a blog or do some freelance writing? Link to your Medium profile or your website.
If you have any social media accounts that are related to the job you are applying for and would strengthen your profile, it’s good to link them.
Make sure that these profiles are updated and professional-looking, though!
#10. Emphasize Your Job Title
Whether it’s in your resume summary or separately, make sure to specify your job title to the recruiter.
Mention it just as it is written in the job ad. No synonyms, no nicknames.
If they are looking for a real estate agent, you write “real estate agent” and not “record-breaking home-seller”.
#11. Don’t lie
Scenario one: You make it to the interview and get caught in your lie.
Scenario two: You get the job, but have to live up to your lie.
It’s really not worth it.
#12. Have an ATS-Friendly Resume
An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS, is a software that scans your resume for certain keywords and based on the amount of matches, decides if your resume should pass on to the recruiter or not.
The way to get past it is to mention the right keywords in your resume, which you can find by carefully reading the job ad.
If you read that they are looking for a “creative marketing director”, for example, you should include that as your job title with exactly the same phrasing. Not “Marketing Director” or “Marketing Team Lead.”
Or at the same time, if you see that C++ is a required skill for the position, you should mention your experience with C++ in the work experience section, or your skill level in the skills section.
For a full guide on how to write an ATS-friendly resume, check out this article.
#13. Use a Reverse-Chronological Resume Format
There are different resume formats that you can use in order to tell your professional story, namely:
- Reverse-Chronological Resume - When you imagine a resume in your head, this is what comes to mind. It’s the most popular resume format in 2021.
- Functional Resume - A functional resume is an alternative resume format that focuses more on your skill-set instead of work experience. It’s mainly used by students or career changers who don’t have much experience in the field they’re applying for.
- Combination Resume - A combination resume is a mix between the other 2 resume formats. It’s usually used by very senior professionals with experience in several industries and professions.
And in 99% of the cases, we recommend going with a reverse-chronological format. It’s the most popular format in 2021, and both ATS systems and recruiters are used to it.
#14. Aim for a 1-Page Resume
“How long should your resume be?” is an age-old question with a simple answer:
For 90% of the cases, your resume shouldn’t be longer than one page.
For most candidates, one page is enough to describe their relevant work experience for a given role. The key here is relevant - you shouldn’t be mentioning information that doesn’t have anything to do with the role.
With that in mind, it’s actually very hard to go over the 1-page. Given, there are exceptions:
- If you’re making an academic CV, you need to list ALL of your career history, so you can go way beyond a single page.
- If you’re a senior professional or CXO, you can go up to 2 pages if all the experience you mention is relevant.
Having a hard time sticking to the one-page limit? Check out some of the best one-page resume templates!
#15. Focus on Achievements Over Responsibilities
When listing your work experiences, make yourself stand out by talking about your achievements instead of responsibilities for each position.
All sales associates are responsible for promoting products and delivering great customer service.
Not all sales associates, however, have the same performance and achieve the same level of sales.
So, instead listing your responsibilities:
- Assisted customers with purchases and questions
- Carried out sales operations
List your achievements:
- Implemented effective sales strategies, reaching 120% of the yearly sales target
- Won Employee of the Month Award for a total of three times in 2020.
- Exceeded monthly sales quotas 3 times over the last 6 months.
Some roles or fields are not that achievement-centric. For example, if you work as a server, you can’t mention something like “served 200+ customers” or “prepared 30+ cappuccinos daily”.
And that’s OK!
In that case, you can just stick to responsibilities instead.
#16. Be specific
You should be able to back all of your achievements with specific examples.
So, numbers, data, periods of time - mention it all.
The less generic your resume content, the better.
- Web developer with 5+ years of industry experience. Background includes experience in programming, debugging, wireframes. Raised user-experience scores by 30% while working for SoftwareX.
- Web developer looking to further advance in their career. Experience in building web applications with great success.
It’s quite obvious which one of these applicants is getting a call back, right?
Interview Tips (To Ace That Interview)
Last, but not least: job interviews.
Perhaps the most stressful part of the job-search process.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
Keep in mind these 15+ essential tips, and you’ll be on the way to a very successful interview.
#1. Be Presentable
In movies things usually go like this:
The main character wakes up late, throws on whatever clothes he/she finds lying around, spills coffee on his/her shirt, but STILL gets the job.
Unfortunately, the chances of that happening in real life are pretty low.
Recruiters pay attention to the way you present yourself. So, that’s not something you should underestimate.
Make sure you get a good amount of sleep the night before, wear wrinkle-free, professional clothes, and enter the room energized and fully focused on the interview.
#2. Do Your Research
During the interview, you will certainly be faced with questions like “What do you already know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?”.
In order to answer, you need to have a pretty good idea of what the company is about, so make sure you do some research before going in for the interview.
Check out their website and learn about their:
- culture, mission and values
- products and services
- client base
Bonus points - You should also be up to date on any recent news or event related to the company.
Apart from preparing you for the interview, this search will also help you evaluate if the company is the right fit for you.
#3. Prepare Answers for the Common Interview Questions Beforehand
No matter the position or interviewer, there are some common interview questions that you will always be asked.
That’s actually a good thing since it allows you to think your answers through beforehand and leave the best impression at the interview.
Some such questions are:
- Tell me something about yourself.
- How did you hear about this position?
- What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?
- Why should we hire you?
Even though they are open-ended questions, recruiters are usually looking for a specific response from you.
Take your time in preparing, as your answers might make or break the deal.
#4. Prepare Questions for the Interviewer
At the end of the interview, you’re going to be asked:
“Do you have any questions for us?”
This is where most interviewees say “no, thanks!” and walk away. Want to stand out? Do the opposite - ask away!
Ask about what it’s like to work at the company, expectations for the positions, good and bad things about the company, etc.
This shows that you’re actually passionate about the job and the company, and you didn’t just randomly apply.
Not sure what to ask? Check out these 15+ questions to ask the interviewer.
#5. Mind Your Attitude
What you say matters. How you say it matters equally as much.
Nobody wants to deal with an arrogant person, let alone work with them, so pay attention to your tone and wording.
Show up at the interview with a positive attitude, be energetic, and most importantly be respectful to everyone.
#6. Be Honest
Don’t lie on your interview.
You might think “Well… what if it’s just a little white lie? I could just exaggerate this one skill juuust a bit? Or I-” Nope. Stop yourself right there.
It’s not worth it, really. Yeah sure, it might increase your chances of getting hired, but what happens when you mention you know French, and your French-speaking co-workers pop by saying “bonjour?”
Yeah…not such a good situation to be in, right?
So, instead of faking it focus on highlighting your best qualities and being your true authentic self.
#7. Practice, But Don’t Memorize
Practice makes perfect, that’s true. However, you don’t want to show the interviewer just how much you’ve practiced.
Avoid memorizing your answers line by line, or you’ll risk sounding too robotic.
Instead, keep in mind a few points you want to mention and let your answer flow with the conversation.
#8. Back-Up Your Claims
Just like you did with your resume, don’t be afraid to talk about numbers and data.
Identify your biggest achievements, use power words when describing them, and back up these claims by describing how you did it and what quantifiable results you achieved.
#9. Maintain Good Body Language
Your body language conveys a lot about your character and it’s one of things you should practice being good at.
When at the interview, make sure you:
- Maintain good posture. Don’t rush when entering the room, keep your shoulders back and stand tall.
- Give a warm greeting. Don’t be afraid to give a smile, maintain eye contact, and shake hands.
- Sit upright. Whether it’s a long interview or an uncomfortable chair, try to keep a good posture during the whole time. Avoid slouching or leaning back too much.
- Maintain eye contact. This shows the interviewer you’re present and paying attention to the situation. From time to time though, switch your gaze to their chin or between the eyes. Staring at someone in the eyes non-stop for 30 minutes might come off as a bit creepy.
- Smile. Whenever it is fit, don’t be afraid to give a warm, positive smile.
We know - acting natural and maintaining good body language at an interview is easier said than done. It’s like telling an introvert, “just be more social!”
If you want to improve your body language (and generally be more confident in interviews), the one practical thing you can do is practice. Go to as many interviews as you can, and at the same time, mind your body language when socializing with your friends.
#10. Don’t Badmouth Previous Employers
As horrible as your boss or coworkers might have been, you’re going to have to keep those feelings to yourself.
Talking negatively about your previous work relations will only let the interviewer know that you would do the same with their company if any problems were to arise.
You might have every right in the world to complain about your previous boss - there are some horrible ones out there for sure.
However, there is no way for the interviewer to know if you really had to deal with one of them or you’re just saying that to cover up your own mistakes.
#11. Prepare for Situational Interview Questions
A type of question that you should be used to facing is situational interview questions (also known as behavioral interview questions).
They’re easy to spot as they always start with something like “Tell me about a time when…”.
They also always tend to have the side effect of nervousness and brain freeze.
With some practice and a little secret weapon called the STAR method, you won’t have anything to fear about them anymore.
STAR is an acronym that stands for:
- Situation - What’s the context of the story? Set the scene and describe the situation for the interviewer.
- Task - What were your responsibilities? Explain what your duties were and what was expected of you.
- Action - What did you do to fix the situation? Describe what you did and focus on YOUR actions instead of your team’s, coworkers’ etc.
- Results - What did your actions lead to? Explain if the situation was solved or not. You can also talk about what you learned from it.
When answering situational interview questions, just follow this structure, and you’ll do just fine!
Check out this article for a more detailed guide on how to ace interviews with the STAR method.
#12. Be On Time (a.k.a. Early)
Don’t leave anything to chance - prepare everything you can the night before.
- Plan your outfit.
- Check the location of the interview.
- Figure out your means of transport & route.
- Have a backup plan, in case the planned transport doesn’t work out.
Nothing starts the interview better than getting there early, cool, calm and collected, because you didn’t have to rush!
#13. Don’t Go Overboard With Your Answers
We get it. Interviews are not enough to show the interviewer what you are all about. They know it too.
However, this doesn’t mean you should make every interview answer a detailed account of your life story.
In general, answers shouldn’t exceed 2 minutes or 3 with some exceptions.
Keep this in mind when thinking about your answer and be selective about the information you give out.
During the interview, you should also pay attention to the interviewer’s expression. If you notice they are getting bored, quickly wrap up your answer.
#14. Know Your Audience
You won’t always be interviewed by an HR recruiter.
Sometimes it can be a prospective department manager, another employee, or even the CEO themself.
All of these people are interested in knowing something different about you, so your answers should vary accordingly.
A department manager wants to know how well you can do your job and if your skills and experiences fit what they are looking for. In this case, you can get more technical with your answers.
The CEO instead wants to know if you fit their company culture and share their values. They don’t want you to get too technical with your answers, so you shouldn’t.
Knowing who you will be facing will help you better-construct your answers.
#15. Be Prepared to Face Concerns
Look at your resume and try to think about any doubts or concerns that the recruiter might have about your application:
- Do you have gaps in your work experience?
- Did you work in a position for an unusually short amount of time?
- Did you switch jobs too often?
- Are you switching careers?
Issues like these won’t pass unobserved by the interviewer and they will certainly ask you about them.
Your move is to try to predict these concerns and prepare a professional and positive answer.
For example, if you’ve worked in a company for one month only, two assumptions might arise:
- You weren’t qualified enough and got fired.
- You quit very early, for whatever reason.
When the interviewer asks about it, you can steer them away from these assumptions by explaining the truth. For example, you can say that:
- The job didn’t match its description.
- The company culture wasn’t a good fit for you.
#16. Follow Up After the Interview
Before leaving the room, ask the interviewer when you can expect a decision and if they need any other documents from you.
It’s important to establish contact and keep in touch, so make sure you send a thank-you email to them right after the interview.
If you don’t hear back within the timeframe you were expecting an answer, you can email them again as a reminder. Lastly, even if you get a negative reply, thank them for their time and offer to stay in touch for any other opportunities they might have in the future.
That’s a lot of things to remember, right? But better safe than sorry!
Let’s go over the most important tips one last time:
- Make use of networking and both online and non-online job search opportunities.
- Use a resume builder to write a one-page, job-tailored resume that makes it past ATS.
- Proofread and make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.
- Go to interviews early, rested, and with a positive attitude.
- Prepare your answers for the most common interview questions and learn to use the STAR method for answering behavioral ones.