The Job Seeker’s Success Formula

Success is a process

Athletes will likely agree with me that developing skill, building technique, taking care of their body and mind requires daily care. Proper routine becomes a critical factor in their success. Professional musicians are no different and each one can relate unique stories about the development of their technique as well as their musicianship. They develop individual regimens that become a trusted part of every day.

Young businessman starting his career

Just like athletes and musicians, jobseekers develop routines and processes. Some good, others…not so much. The list of activities include attending jobseeker support groups, networking appointments, presentations at libraries, daily activity on LinkedIn, finding and applying for posted positions, reading and learning more about their professions, and possible classes and certifications. Did I mention cover letters and résumés? Thank you notes and interview preparation?

Did you make this common mistake?

Often, after being laid off, jobseekers may panic and rush to put together a résumé and apply for any number of opportunities. However, today’s job market is constantly changing. An industry has evolved to support the hiring process. To be successful in today’s market, a jobseeker must become an expert in the advancements in his or her industry to be credible. Next, he or she must understand the new hiring processes.

Why jobseekers quit

  1. The quality of the activity determines the quality of the result. So if the action was of high quality, then the result brings high value.
  2. When the results are deemed poor by the jobseeker, then that person is more likely to give up. They quit.

When an activity doesn’t bring in any results or when the results only have a negative impact, then it’s reasonable to stop that process.

Jobseekers spend a lot of energy on the job search. They give it their very best and when they get calls for jobs that are a poor fit and don’t bring even a consideration of a living wage, they give up. That’s reasonable.

Further, when a jobseeker gets nothing back from all their effort—nothing; why should they continue that process. That’s reasonable.

Lastly, when jobseekers are treated poorly by the hiring community (this is my biggest “beef”!!!!), when they receive contracts that evaporate, interviews for positions that disappear or didn’t exist to start with, promised calls that never happen— It’s no wonder they give up. That’s reasonable.

Finding a job is a marathon rather than a sprint.

Don’t quit. Do this instead.

Jobseekers might consider a different approach:

  1. If the result was undesirable, then change the process that created it.
  2. Realize that every response has valuable information IF the jobseeker asks the right questions.

Case study: Meet Toni

Toni had been in a transition job for 18 months when we met up. The position paid half of what she was making and the work wasn’t in her field of expertise. It barely paid the bills. None of her efforts resulted in an interview. She was ready to give up and resign herself to never getting back to her industry of choice.


As we began working Toni carefully studied changes in her industry. She realized that she would likely have to move out of state. She diligently applied herself to learning our process to create customized cover letters and résumés that would get through the online systems (ATS), and parallel the hiring process with regard to additional information. Calls began coming in…but:

After four months of work she said, “Marcia, these people see me as being qualified for positions that are lower than my expertise.”

It was an excellent observation. Somehow we were sending the wrong message about where Toni fit in her industry. We went back and selected five job postings that were at her level of expertise. We compared the language used on the postings with the job descriptions on her résumé. Then we changed the language in her last two positions to reflect the current language found on the job postings.

The “right” interviews began to surface. A job offer came last week.

Case study: Meet Mike

Mike has been in graphic design and holds degrees and experience in brand development and creative messaging through high-quality print materials. Copyediting, He had both agency and corporate experience as well as a comprehensive understanding of digital technology.


Mike’s first interview didn’t go very well. The hiring VP didn’t think his portfolio was up to date. He didn’t have a website to showcase the best of his creative work.

Mike decided to take some additional classes to get direct experience with the new graphic design tools as well as some web design classes and web programming. After six months of taking classes and studying Adobe Creative Suite and CSS, the positions Mike was looking for still hadn’t surfaced. His portfolio was still not up to date but he added a few of his creations on his Facebook page.

After months of looking for positions, nothing surfaced. We spoke about his industry and further investigation showed that it had changed significantly with the rise of big data, social media, and crowd sourcing. His industry had died. It is gone.

Mike had taken a part-time position managing a high-end jewelry tore and was doing quite well with the position. We discussed using those skills to seek employment in high-end retail sales especially since he was currently employed in that industry.

Instead, Mike decided to try a few more classes in web design and HTML programming.

Job Seeker Success Process No. 1

Since 2007 I’ve studied the processes of the hiring profession and have written extensively about it on this blog. By 2008 I had developed the Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop that teaches jobseekers the process that provides the hiring community exactly what they need—exactly when they need it.
You can read more about it here.

Job Seeker Success Process No. 2

There is a lot of material on the web about how a jobseeker can fill his or her day with activities and make a full-time job out of looking for employment. That’s all fine—unless it isn’t working and the jobseeker isn’t any closer to getting a viable job that fits after putting in all that work.

Basic steps:

  1. Create the finest, customized cover letter and résumé possible. It should be clearly tailored to the industry, company, and specific position.
  2. Submit your materials through the online process. (If you are tempted to skip this step then consider reading this blog.)
  3. Repeat this process for five to seven positions.
  4. Watch carefully what you get back.
  5. Analyze carefully. Make changes. Here are some tips.
    • If you receive nothing—then there is something wrong with your materials and you are not likely to getting through the ATS.

      Solution: Change your cover letter and/or résumé. Something needs to come out or something needs to go in.
    • If you get an immediate “standard” response (i.e. “Thank you for your application ….”). You probably got through the ATS.
    • If you get something a day to a week later from “The Talent Acquisition Team” —better. A real person probably looked at your application.
    • If you receive an email from a person: connect with them on LinkedIn and follow-up.
    • If you get a screening call, or phone interview: listen carefully to their concerns as they vet you out. Check your cover letter and résumé to be sure you’ve responded to those concerns in future applications.
  6. Change your cover letter and résumé based on what you learn.
  7. Repeat: File five to seven more job applications.
  8. Learn, Track Changes and Repeat.

Vector life cycle diagram

Monitor how far your cover letter and résumé gets in the process. Keep making changes and carefully monitor what you’ve changed.

The purpose of your cover letter and résumé is to get a phone call. Once you have succeeded, listen very carefully to any concerns they may have and make appropriate changes.

This is one way to mange the jobseeker’s learning process.

Jobseeker’s Success Formula:

You will get a job if:

  1. You keep trying and…
  2. You keep learning.

The Jobseeker’s Objection:

Some people tell me, “Marcia, right now I just want a job. I’m willing to settle for something less. I’ve been “dumbing” down my resume. I don’t care if I’m overqualified, I just need a job.”

I hear this all the time and there are times when I encourage jobseekers to get transitional jobs. Like Toni, it can be managed once the industry is moving again. That said, the two “hardest sell” for a jobseeker is applying for a job that he or she is overqualified for. In this case, the potential employer will not consider the jobseeker because they believe they will leave as soon as a better opportunity becomes available. They are a flight-risk.

Another “hard sell” is applying for a job with a lesser title in a larger company. With so much competition, it’s very difficult to pull this off. It looks like the jobseeker is willing to take a step down in his or her career.

Stick to the process and get hired quicker.

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