The Job Seeker's Checklist: How to Stay Organized During a Job Search

October 10, 2023
By Nelson Connects

It takes, on average, 20 weeks (around five months) to find a job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In a tight job market, it can take much longer. If you can’t afford to spend half the year unemployed, then you need a job search strategy to find your next role quickly.


Looking for a job is often a job in itself. To make the job search less overwhelming, you must approach it with a plan. Follow our seven-step checklist so you have every advantage for staying organized and productive while you plan your next move.


Step 1: Assess Your Career Goals


Your goals, aspirations, and circumstances will likely change as you move through your career. The job you held last year may not be the one you need next year. It’s worth taking time to evaluate your situation.


Do you want to change your career direction? Are you interested in a leadership role? Would you prefer to work from home?


While looking at your career goals, also take the time to assess your skills, interests, and values. Suppose you’re looking to change career direction; what transferable skills can you apply in your new career?


Step 2: Prepare a Tailored Resume and Cover Letter


Recruiters quickly pick up when job candidates recycle the same generic cover letter and resume for multiple job applications.


There’s nothing wrong with using templates as a base to speed up the application process. Just make sure you personalize your resume to match the company and the job you’re applying for.


In your resume, emphasize the skills and experiences that best match the job requirements. Remove any information that isn’t relevant.


Create a compelling cover letter that’s short but powerful. Highlight your unique strengths, explain why you would be a good fit for the role, and let your personality shine through.


Remember, recruiters review lots of applications. They’re looking for a resume that showcases your skills and quickly identifies why you’re a good fit for the position.


Step 3: Create a Game Plan


Finding a job is often a numbers game. The more applications you put out, the greater the chance of landing a job. To knock out as many applications as possible requires a game plan.


So, what’s the best job search strategy? Here’s our three-step guideline.


1. Set goals and commit to them


You may decide to devote two hours a day to doing a job search or apply for ten jobs a week. If you’re unemployed, you could set up a daily job search schedule. If you are currently employed, you may set aside evenings or weekends to conduct job searches.


2. Widen your search field


Online job boards and recruitment agencies are popular avenues for job seekers. If your skills are specific to an industry, like IT or engineering, sign up on an industry-specific job platform. You can also tap your network (which can include family and friends) for job leads. Also, you can always reach out to companies you would like to work for to find out if they have openings. Sign up for their job alerts so you’re among the first to know when open jobs have been posted.


3. Track your progress


If you’re applying for numerous jobs a week, it’s easy to lose track of which companies you applied to and where you are in the interview process. You can keep track of applications, interviews, and follow-ups on a spreadsheet or a job application tracking app. Tracking your progress can give you an indication of whether your applications are striking the right chord or if you need to adjust them for a better outcome.


Step 4: Build and Optimize Your Online Presence


It’s no secret that many recruiters look at job candidates’ social media accounts to get a sense of who they are “in real life,” not just how they appear on paper. So, reviewing your online presence and making it more professional is a good idea. Not just on LinkedIn, but across all your social media accounts.


Following are some tips for making your profiles work for you in your job hunt.

  1. Update your social media profiles with your latest job information. Mention skills, training qualifications, professional associations, and personal interests.

  2. Choose a professional profile picture that’s high quality and with an uncluttered background.

  3. Rewrite your bio or “About Me” copy to reflect what you do, why you do it, and how it can benefit an employer. Highlight any achievements or awards you received and include testimonials from clients or co-workers if you have any.

  4. Optimize your content. Use the relevant keywords for the job role you seek. So, if you’re looking for a human resources position, you could include keywords like “HR practitioner, talent management, and human resource management.”

  5. Search your name online. What comes up may surprise you; especially if it’s something that creates a poor impression. Removing content from the internet isn’t always easy. If the webmaster won’t remove it, you can approach an online reputation management company to help clean up your online presence.

Step 5: Research Employers


Employers conduct research on you to determine if you are a good fit for the company. So, shouldn’t you research them to see if they’re the right employer for you? The recruitment process is a two-way street. Both parties should feel confident that a potential match is the right match.


When researching employers, you should ascertain if their organizational culture and values align with yours. For example, if diversity in the workplace matters to you, you may want to see this reflected in the company’s workforce, including the leadership.


When you know more about the company you’re applying to, you can customize your application to align with the organization’s mission, goals, and values.


Step 6: Leverage Your Professional Network


Whether we acknowledge it or not, who you know, matters. Being part of a professional network can open doors. If someone can vouch for you, it can increase your chance of landing the job.


One powerful method to develop a professional network is to conduct information interviews. An informational interview involves interviewing experienced experts in your field to gain insight into the job and industry and learn from their experience.


There are additional benefits to informational interviews:

  • You can invite interviewees to join your professional network.
  • You get to practice interviewing techniques which can help you perform better in job interviews.

Step 7: Prepare for Interviews


You can’t anticipate how a job interview will go. However, you can prepare answers to common interview questions, such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Why do you want to work for us?”. 


The key to answering questions like these is understanding the reason behind the question. For instance, the recruiter may ask about your weaknesses to determine how self-aware you are or if you’re willing to work on your weak areas.


Preparing answers in advance can help you answer them more confidently during the interview. This may give you an advantage over other candidates.


Key Takeaways: Get Organized in Your Job Search


Staying organized during a job search is much easier when you have a comprehensive job search checklist to guide you. A checklist can streamline your job search efforts and help you avoid duplicating applications. Preparation is key, and a step-by-step checklist is a useful tool that can help you stay organized as you navigate your job search.


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