Is Your Job Search “Cookie-Cutter” or “Hand-Dropped”?
One of the first questions I ask clients in the resume creation process is who’s our audience? I tell them we have to know what our buyer is buying before we can sell to them. I may conduct all my business over the telephone, but I know a “deer in the headlights” look when I hear one. If necessary, I back up a bit and say, “OK, let’s talk about, how you’re searching.”

I want clients to see their skills as a product, the hiring authority as people looking to buy the product and the job postings as keys to unlock the secret to what the buyer wants. Sharing their search process lets me see if they “get it”. It’s also a window to how much research they’ve done on their own and how much additional coaching I have to integrate into the process.

In spite of all the job search information out there, in this technical age, here are some “cookie cutter” responses to the “How are you searching?” question I’ve gotten in the past two weeks. No hand-dropped, custom-made cookies here:

“I looked in the paper this past Sunday.”
“I looked on the job boards and I’ll post my resume once we finish it.”
“I’m going to put on my best interview clothes and drop hard copy resumes off at a businesses around town”
“My mom has a friend who knows someone.”
“I’ll find a recruiter. Once they see my skills, they’ll find me a job.”
“I’ve not looked in more than 10 years. This is all new to me.”
“I need a generic resume. I can do anything. Employers like that right?”
“I’m not good with computers.”

So, how are you going about your search?

Do you anxiously await delivery each Sunday for the paper?
That’s maybe 9% of the job market. You’re leaving 91% of the market untapped.

Are you posting and looking only on big boards? Depending on the board, posting and hoping yields about a 2% return rate. (Sorry gang. It takes effort). Do you know about places like, a unique job search engine that only lists jobs taken directly from company websites? Have you discovered some of the niche sites out there focusing on specific industries?

Are you visiting in person? I don’t know about you, but I find it presumptive to think, in times of reduced staff and more work done by fewer people, someone is sitting there with nothing better to do than wait for you to arrive, hand them your resume and discuss your wants and needs. But then I don’t cherish drop in company either. (There might be a bit of personal bias there. )

Networking is the best way to land a position, but having one person who is a friend of a friend is not a network or a job search strategy. Building an effective network takes time. Don’t panic. It’s never too late to start.

Think a recruiter will help? Recruiters find people for jobs. They do not find jobs for people. BIG difference. If you’re not a fit or you can’t sell your value, forget it, they’re on to the next candidate.

Not looked in 10 years? Then you’ve got some catching up to do. It’s a whole new world our there. Make Google your friend and learn. There’s a wealth of information out there. There’s also garbage. Read with a critical eye and use what makes sense to you. If you’re not a sandwich board kind of guy, don’t force it, but bring your skills up to date. Capitalize on social media. You never know who you’ll touch. But, I assure you, you won’t touch anyone if you’re wringing your hands and sputtering, “I don’t know how” while making excuses about your privacy. This is a 21st century job search. Deal with it.

(Quick story: I landed a resume client because, after some difficulty with a local optometrist, they told to take my business elsewhere. I tweeted this on Twitter: “My life is now complete. I’ve been fired from a job, a marriage and now as a customer.” This simple 140(ish)-character post resonated with a woman in California. She not only became a client; she referred me to her neighbor who also became my client. And, most recently, I met someone, also via social media, who might be able to use the CA client’s expertise. I will refer her. If I wasn’t interacting through social media, none of these connections would have happened. Engage. Step outside your comfort zone and use social media to build your hand-dropped, custom brand. Amazing things happen when you stretch and make yourself a little different from the rest of the crowd.)

“I just need a generic resume. I’ll do anything” is NOT a job search strategy. Employers have neither the time nor the volition to figure out where you fit in to their organization. Tell them boldly and proudly what you bring to the party or they’ll go looking for the next person that does. Research. Know what your buyer is buying and sell your skills. No one cares about what you have done until you put it in the context of how, what you have done will benefit them. You don’t see Ford Motor Company advertising Mustangs to 80-year-old grandmothers do you? They know their target audience is usually young. They’ve built a successful advertising campaign around knowing their demographic. That’s not to say grandma won’t be rockin’ down the highway in a Mustang convertible with tunes blasting, but that’s the exception, not the rule. I wont’ say landing a job with a generic resume and an “I’ll do anything” approach won’t happen. I will say, like grandma, that’s the exception, not the rule.

“I’m not good with computers.” It’s 2009. Computers are a part of just about every job. Get over yourself and take a class.

(Another story – yes, it’s from Twitter. I follow a 95-year-old man on Twitter, @marcelmurrell. He is quick-witted and hilarious. He has a Facebook account and is even funnier there because he gets more than 140-character to demonstrate his humor and wit. He posts links to YouTube. He edits pictures on his Mac and uploads them to Facebook. He retweets and interacts on Twitter like a champ. He’s 95! He’s been around longer than color TVs for heaven’s sake and he gets it. Stop saying you’re not good with computers and you’re can’t learn. You need that skill. If Marcel can do it, I dare say, you can too.)

A successful job search requires creativity, strategy, a willingness to research and learn new skills, tenacity and above all, a positive attitude. Get out of your own way. There are a bazillion resources out there. Find the mix that works for you. Customize your search. Don’t stamp it out using the same cookie-cutter everyone else is using. Differentiate yourself from the very beginning or you’ll look like the rest of the cookies on the plate. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the biggest and best cookie from the batch, hand-dropped, full of chocolate chips, slightly misshapen, perhaps, but a standout from the rest, touting its tasty pleasures over the perfectly shaped, look-alike cookies on the plate. Hand-drop your search and amazing things will happen.

Oh, and don’t forget your thank yous. Gratitude is power.