10 Essential Tips For Landing Your Next Job

We’ve noticed recently on Twitter that a lot of people are talking about having been laid off over the past couple of months. TechCrunch reports that there have been almost 80,000 layoffs in the technology sector since August, and entire blogs have been started about web and tech people losing their jobs. But even with all that doom and gloom, many companies are still hiring. If you find yourself looking for work, or trying to find some freelance gigs on the side to supplement your income, here are some tips to help you stand out, stay organized, and ultimately land a job.

1. Get Your Resumé in Order

Your resumé is a record of your entire professional life condensed on a single page (or two). 95% of the time, it will be the second thing a potential employer will see (first is your cover letter, which we’ll talk about next), so that makes it supremely important that everything is in order.

First and foremost, that means making sure your resumé is up-to-date. Double check that all of your contact information is correct, and that all of your prior work experience, including your most recent position, is accounted for. Try to emphasize the positions that best relate to the jobs you’re most interested in finding, and remove the ones that don’t relate, especially if your resumé is getting too long (a lot of HR people won’t both with resumés over two pages in length).

Remember to give a brief synopsis of your responsibilities at each job because job titles don’t mean much. A product manager at one company might do less than an assistant at another.

2. Never Reuse Cover Letters

The cover letter is the first thing a potential employer will see when you apply for a job. It will often determine if your resumé even gets looked at, so it is vitally important that you put proper time into crafting a good one.

Your cover letter is your chance to tie in the work experience detailed on your resumé to the actual job you’re applying for. Go into detail about why your past experiences will help you excel at the position you’re gunning to land.

You should always tailor your cover letter to the specific job you’re applying for. You may not have to do a full rewrite each time, since you’re likely to be applying to similar job opportunities, but you should never send out a form cover letter that’s the same for every application.

3. Network (Offline)

Networking is essential to finding a new job. Neither of my last two jobs were advertised via traditional channels — I happened into them by meeting the right people, letting them know what I was good at, and making a positive impression.

You should set aside some time to become a regular at the local tech meetups (most cities have a few these days, even the smaller ones), join the local user groups about the technologies you’re interested in — and present at them, and attend nearby conferences. For the unemployed, conferences can be an expense that’s hard to justify, but if you can manage to afford the cheapest pass (the one that gets you into just the expo hall usually), you can meet some great people hanging around in the lobby and hallways.

4. Network (Online)

Remember that networking happens both offline and online.

Online it means developing and maintaining a network of active professional acquaintances on services like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and making positive contributions to professional discussion communities like Hacker News and SitePoint Forums.

5. Start Blogging

Blogging is an excellent way to raise your visibility. Blog about the things you hope to be doing at your next job and start to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Along with all that networking you’re doing, blogging will help raise your profile and could attract recruiters. It’s never a bad thing when you apply for a job and the person on the other end reading your cover letter thinks, “Where have I heard this name before? … Oh right, he wrote that great article about unit testing!”

And who knows, blogging might even land you a job interview at Google.

6. Check Job Boards Often (Like, Right Now)

You’ll never find a job if you don’t actively look for them. Very rarely do jobs come to you — yeah, it happens sometimes, but it’s the exception, not the rule. In October, we published a list of 20 job boards that can help you find a job in web development or a freelance gig. These are a great starting point, and while you’re conducting your job search you should live on these sites.

Many of them offer RSS feeds of new jobs. Those RSS feeds are your new best friend. Subscribe to them all, set your RSS reader to check for updates as often as possible, and be the first to apply for new jobs and gigs as they go up. For sites that don’t have any RSS feeds, don’t be shy about using a service like Dapper to create your own. Staying on top of as many job opportunities as possible is essential to finding a new job — this is a marathon, not a sprint.

7. Know Your Price

Especially for freelancers, knowing your price is very important. It’s not enough that you can beat the other guy to the pitch, you have to be able to quote fast as well. As more and more people are pushed out of work and into the job market, and less and less jobs are available to go around, competition is getting really stiff for each new open position. Being able to quote quickly and accurately will raise your chances of landing that consulting gig.

8. Don’t Stop Learning

How many programming languages do you know? How good are you with CSS? Photoshop? Dreamweaver? Can you set up Apache in your sleep? That’s not good enough. Someone else out ther knows more, and knows it all better. The job market is competitive and you shouldn’t rest on your laurels and assume that what you know is enough to get by. Staying on the bleeding edge of web technology is a great way to set yourself apart from other job applicants, and honing your knowledge of your current skills is important to standing out in the crowd (also, why not blog about all the new things you’re learning, so recruiters can bone up on what you’re boning up on?).

You want to be the guy telling your potential next boss about new technologies even he hasn’t heard of and why he should be using them. That’s the sort of passion that will make an impression on employers.

9. Follow Up with Past Clients

A perhaps overlooked source of potential new jobs is past clients. Just because they haven’t contacted you recently, doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t work to be done. Be proactive and ping past clients about what you can do for them. If nothing else, it’s a great way to reconnect with people that can act as potential references or talk you up to others in their industry that might be looking for help. Keep yourself on the radar screens of those who do the hiring and you’ll be rewarded for the effort eventually.

Similarly, if you haven’t heard back from them, it’s a good idea to follow up on jobs you’ve applied for a week or two after emailing your application. Ask if they’re starting interviews soon and reaffirm your interest in the open position. A well-timed follow up and move your resume to the top of the pile just as the employer is sorting through, and often times that sort of ambition will be looked upon favorably and rewarded. More than once in my past that type of follow up has led to an interview.

10. Keep it all Organized

Finding a new job rarely means just applying for a couple. I’ve read more stories than I care to count about people who had to apply for 15, 20, 40, or even more jobs before they landed just one interview. That shouldn’t be discouraging — finding a new job is hard work and could take months — but it does illustrate why you need to be organized about your job hunt.

Applying for the same job twice, or accidentally addressing a cover letter to the wrong employer would be major faux pas that you definitely want to avoid. We recommend Happy Job Search, a application written by web developer Daniel Higginbotham after he found himself laid off from work twice in the span of three months.

Happy Job Search is a very simple application, but it’s an exceptionally useful one. It lets you quickly log information about jobs that you come across in your search, and then keep track of the stage of your application — whether you’ve applied, heard back, have an interview scheduled, etc. When you’re applying to tens of jobs each week and scanning hundreds of job ads, an organizational application like Happy Job Search could quickly become your new favorite piece of software.

As always, if you have any other advice for job seekers, please share in the comments!

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    I would add: never reuse a resume. Seriously. Keep a ‘master’ resume, then adapt it for each job. I’ve had to deal with so many applicants who are obviously just submitting generic resumes. If you want me as the guy doing the hiring to have a good impression of you, match your resume to the job I’m advertising.

  • http://www.para-diddledesign.com somecallmejosh

    Excellent point Patrick. Market yourself the same way you’d market your company.

  • philliplyon02

    Good advice. Job seekers should also check out niche job sites like my site (http://www.mepengineerjobs.com). Job seekers will find a lot more jobs online if they expand their search beyond the big headhunters (Moster, Hotjobs, etc.)

  • Richard McLaughlin

    First, I live in France, so I have things a little different than the US. I am looking for a new job now, and have found that some of the best results are not on Job Boards in France. I want to work in the Paris area and have had good leads from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands – looking for an English speaker in France.

    I’m just saying that you should not only look in your backyard. A local company may not be hiring, but companies that target your area might.

  • loganathan

    Good Thought! cheers

  • ChrisHogg

    1. “. . . (a lot of HR people won’t bother with resumes over two pages in length).”

    Job seekers should be avoiding HR people like the plague. If you are answering ads by sending in resumes like good little boys and girls you are pretty much wasting your time.

    2. “Go into detail about why your past experiences will help you excel at the position you’re gunning to land.”

    Going into detail by customizing individual resumes and writing exceptionally well-crafted cover letters takes time . . . lots and lots of time. There is a much better way (thank you Mr. Bell).

    Exceptionally effective job searches can be and are conducted without sending in resumes at all.

    3. “Neither of my last two jobs were advertised via traditional channels — I happened into them by meeting the right people, letting them know what I was good at, and making a positive impression.”

    See 1 and 2 above.

    Don’t most of us know people who have sent out a couple hundred resumes to a couple hundred job ads, in the space of a month or two, and have gotten back zero responses? It’s so easy to send resumes today . . . that resumes have become in many (most?) instances the junk mail of the job search.

    4. “Online it means developing and maintaining a network of active professional acquaintances….”

    The idea behind networking is (or at least should be) to be the person who gets contacted about a job opening, and who gets hired, before the employer even starts thinking of posting the job on their web site, let alone advertising on job boards.

    5. “It’s never a bad thing when you apply for a job and the person on the other end reading your cover letter thinks, “Where have I heard this name before? … Oh right, he wrote that great article about unit testing!”

    Any chance this will ever be a HR staff person reading articles about unit testing?

    6. “These are a great starting point, and while you’re conducting your job search you should live on these sites.”

    Yes, specific to most SitePoint readers. But you are still competing with the other 300,000 SitePoint readers and millions of readers around the world who are also reading these job ads. Many if not most of whom are more technically qualified than you, by the way.

    7. “. . . knowing your price is very important.”

    Knowing when or if to disclose your price is crucial. See, more for job seekers but very applicable to solo practitioners, “Negotiating Your Salary: How to make a $1000 a Minute” by Chapman.

    8. “The job market is competitive and you shouldn’t rest on your laurels and assume that what you know is enough to get by.”

    More often than not, the job goes not to the one who is most technically qualified, but to the one who conducts the most effective job search (attributed to Richard Lathrop).

    9. “A well-timed follow up (can) move your resume to the top of the pile just as the employer is sorting through, and often times that sort of ambition will be looked upon favorably and rewarded.”

    Yes, assuming that you are even in the pile and weren’t screened out by a high school intern working a summer term in the HR office. Wouldn’t it be better to have already spoken to or better yet visited with the actual employer before the pile ever arrives on his or her desk or computer screen?

    10. “Finding a new job rarely means just applying for a couple. I’ve read more stories than I care to count about people who had to apply for 15, 20, 40, or even more jobs before they landed just one interview. That shouldn’t be discouraging — finding a new job is hard work and could take months — but it does illustrate why you need to be organized about your job hunt.”

    Actually what is described here is very, very, very, very discouraging. There are of course no guarantees when it comes to finding work. But simply finding more job ads, and sending out more resumes, faster, while keeping meticulous records is not the answer (Let’s see, what I’m doing isn’t working . . . hmmm . . . so obviously the solution is to do more of the same thing, more efficiently).

    There is a better way, a more effective way that provides very realistic odds of finding the right job, in the right location, at the right pay, in the shortest possible time.

    That way is not described by finding job ads, sending in resumes, and waiting for the phone to ring.