10 Critical Components of a Successful Job Search

The job search can be a difficult process. Many components need to come together in order to make it successful. Unfortunately, some job seekers put all their efforts into only a few of the components without ever considering the rest.

It's not enough to focus all your energy on crafting an award-winning resume, applying for jobs online, and waiting for recruiters or hiring managers to call. No, to be successful in your job search requires much more.

When I talk about the job search with my clients, I emphasize the following 10 components -- all of which are critical for job search success:

1. A Proper Attitude

All too often, I hear job seekers complaining. "I'll never get hired because I'm overqualified," they say. Or: "There are no jobs out there." Negative talk like this will get you nowhere.

People are far more likely to help people who appear positive than they are to help people who appear negative. I'm not saying you must feel positive; I'm just saying you should try to appear positive. As the saying goes: "Fake it 'til you make it."

Need help? Read up on the importance of a positive attitude.

2. A Good First Impression

First of all, are you dressed for the job search? You're on stage every time you leave the house, so don't walk around in clothes you'd wear while cutting the lawn.

Second, be sure to always look people in the eyes while delivering a firm handshake that doesn't crush their hand. Smile at everyone and make eye contact. You may think this is not important, but you never know when you'll meet a potential employer in Starbucks, for example.

Need help? Read up on 10 first impressions that are important for your job search.

3. Network, Network, Network

Whenever you talk with someone in your community and the opportunity arises, mention you're between jobs. Be clear as to what you want to do and where you want to do it. Tell everyone (if the time is appropriate), but don't bend their ear and make a poor first impression.

Attend networking events to gain leads and provide leads; remember, networking is a two-way street.

Don't confine yourself to job-seeker-specific groups. Attend business networking events where most people are employed. Currently employed contacts will generally be in a better position to help than your fellow unemployed will be.

Need help? Read up on how to make networking more pleasant.

4. A Strategy for the 'Hidden' Job Market

Coincidentally, this has a great deal to do with networking. Look for jobs that aren't advertised publicly. Employers gain a lot more from not advertising their positions. That way, they can promote from within and get referrals from trusted sources, rather than deal with the scores of unqualified candidates who are sure to flood them with applications.

Let's face it: When a job is advertised, it's too late. The majority of job seekers only apply for advertised positions, which means there's a great deal of competition. The smart job seekers tap into the hidden world of unadvertised jobs by networking and becoming referrals for desired positions.

Need help? Read up on how to mine the hidden job market.

5. Outreach to Growing Companies

This will require gathering your labor market information, which can be done in a number of ways. I suggest developing a list of companies for which you'd like to work and then visiting their websites to look for evidence of growth.

Growth equals possible hiring in the future. Business journals, the stock market, and conversations with knowledgeable contacts are all sources for the labor market information you need. Once you know which companies are growing, send them a networking email.

Need help? Read up on how to craft your networking email.

6. Research, Research, Research

Know all the requirements for every job to which you apply. Which major skills are most important, and how you can demonstrate that you have these skills? (This will also be vital when you write your tailored resume.)

You should also research the companies' products, services, mission statements, and so forth. This will come in handy when you're anticipating the questions you will be asked during the interview.

Need help? Read up on how to research for your in interviews.

7. A Tailored, Targeted Resume

Market yourself with professional, targeted resumes. Do not send a one-size-fits-all resume that fails to show the love. Rather tailor your resume for each job. Your resumes should include relevant quantified accomplishments, using numbers, dollar amounts, and percentages wherever possible.

Your resume should also include a strong "performance profile" that makes the employer want to read on. Don't keep your accomplishments confined to your work history. Include some accomplishment statements in your performance profile. You'll have an easier time getting employers' attention that way.

Need help? Read up on how to create a tailored resume.

8. A Cover Letter With Each Resume

True, some recruiters do not read cover letters, but many do. And if your job will involve writing, you must send a well-written -- and here we go again -- targeted cover letter.

A cover letter can be a great way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job and company to which you're applying. It also points the reader to the relevant accomplishments on your resume.

Need help? Read up on why cover letters are important.

9. A LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter Networking Campaign

Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking; rather, it should supplement your networking efforts.

I lean more toward LinkedIn as an online networking and branding site. It is for professionals looking to find jobs and to advance their businesses. Your LinkedIn profile should be outstanding, just like your resume. If it isn't, don't advertise it.

Need help? Read up on how to brand yourself with your LinkedIn profile.

10. Follow-Up

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes job seekers commit is failing to follow up. They put so much effort into writing their marketing documents and meeting decision-makers in person, but they never call like they said they would.

This component of the job search can't be emphasized enough. Furthermore, the failure to follow up when you say you will demonstrates irresponsibility and unreliability. Make it a point to follow up.

Need help? Read up on how to follow up after a networking event.


Yesterday, I had our networking group do an exercise that was intended to get them thinking of other ways to look for work, as most of them were probably focusing on a few components of their job search without success instead of focusing on all of them.

Sure enough, many of these job seekers were only aware of a few of the critical components for job search success. All of them agreed that they need to do more than look for jobs online for six hours at a time. Hopefully, they'll follow through with this -- and you will, too.

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.