Have a plan
A job search is about marketing yourself and, just like any other marketer, you need a marketing plan that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. In order to build a plan, you must first determine your goal-What sort of job do you want? I know, you are tempted to say, any job that pays. But, think of it this way. Just like a marketer will pick a target audience in order to refine and deliver a message with the most impact, you will gain an advantage over the competition by creating a resume and an interview strategy that specifically targets your ideal job. On top of that, by targeting your dream job, you may prevent going through this whole process again in a few months. Now, realistically, finances may dictate that you take whatever you can find most quickly for now. But don’t give up there. If you have to take a job that is less than what you really want, look for something that will allow you to continue your search until you find what you’re looking for.
Then, examine your strengths and weaknesses. What makes you uniquely qualified for the position you want and where do your skills need some work? Your strengths are your selling points and you should be prepared to set employers at ease when they ask about your weaknesses by showing how you have successfully overcome them in the past and what steps you have taken to correct or minimize them.
Your plan should include measurable outcomes that you can control. For example, how many calls will you make a week? What steps will you take to strengthen your network? How many resumes will you send out? Do you have a cover letter that you can use a template and customize easily to fit each position that you apply for?
Prepare for your search
There are all kind of resources out there to help you get ready for your job search. Your local library can recommend good books to help you and you can search for resources online. There are five critical components of your job search: your resume, your cover letter, your interview skills, and your follow up/thank you letter. So, stay in touch with your contacts, make sure that your written communications are up to snuff and practice interviewing. Be ready for the behavioural interviews that are so popular today. Do an internet search for job interview questions, think about what you would ask if you were the hiring manager and be prepared with great answers.
Track every part of your job search. I like to keep an Excel spreadsheet with the dates that applications or resumes were submitted, follow up dates, and offers received. If you track your job search, you will know when it is time to follow up with a potential employer and can get a feel for what is working and what is not. For example, if you send out a lot of applications but get no interviews, you will want to work on your cover letters and resumes. If you get interviews, but no offers, brush up on your interviewing skills.
Use your tracking system to help you keep in touch with potential employers. Stand out from the crowd by taking the time to follow up on your application a week or two after it is submitted. Send a follow up letter to each person that interviews you to thank them for their time, express your interest in the job, and comment on some aspect of your conversation.
One technique for effectively answering behaviorally based interview questions is the SMART technique http://soar.swiftlysoar.com/2010/09/07/ace-the-behavioral-job-interview-using-soars-smart-technique.aspx. Following the guidelines in this article may help you avoid awkward follow up questions by the interviewer.