If you're looking for a career, candidate self-marketing starts by being different and being connected. This starts by stopping doing stuff that doesn't work. If you're just looking for another job, go ahead and do what everyone else does.

For candidates here’s a super quick overview of the five things you must not do to get an interview and ultimately a better job that represents a real career move.

  1. Don’t send unsolicited resumes to recruiters. Recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people, so don’t waste your time sending your resume to any recruiter you don’t know unless the job is posted or you know the company is looking for someone just like you! Unsolicited resumes are ignored.
  2. Don’t directly apply for jobs. Unless you have a nearly perfect background, your resume or LinkedIn in profile will wind up in the “review later” folder. Since LinkedIn is a network of connections, it’s better to find someone connected to the person who posted the job, and get that person to vouch for you. This way you’ll instantly be moved into the “review now” folder. This is part of the “must do” action described later.
  3. Don’t use the default version of your LinkedIn profile. When you apply for a job on LinkedIn a short summary of your LinkedIn profile is sent to the recruiter embedded in an email. This includes the first three lines on your profile and a list of your past jobs and titles. Recruiters spend about 20 seconds to review this and if not compelling or perfect it’s archived. To improve your odds, make sure every one of your past companies and titles are meaningful and really spiff up the first line under your name. This is your personal branding statement so make sure it stands out.
  4. Don’t use boilerplate or do what everyone else does. Recruiters and hiring managers get hundreds of requests daily to connect or apply for an open job. You’ll need to personalize every message if you want these messages to even be looked at. One way to do this is to describe something you’ve done that’s related to the job described, and suggest a preliminary conversation as a good first step. Whatever you do, don’t do what everyone else does.
  5. Don’t answer stupid questions. When you do get a call from a recruiter don’t be too hungry. This is a huge turnoff. Also, don’t get lulled into answering the standard screening questions of the “what do you have?” and “what do you want?” variety. This is a clue the recruiter is a box-checker and if you don’t have a nearly perfect profile you’ll be screened out. Instead ask the person what some of the big challenges in the position are and what problems need to be addressed. Here's a post I did last month that will help you control the conversation by uncovering these real job needs and how to respond.  

While this is a lot of stuff you must not do, there is one thing you absolutely must do to help land a job that represents a career move. First, recognize that LinkedIn is an interconnected network of 180+ million people, not just a job board. To leverage this network, you’ll want to find someone who knows you and is willing to recommend you for a job. You’ll improve your odds by rapidly building out your own network of past associates and then contacting these people to get connected to their best connections. Then when searching for a job on LinkedIn you’ll see an important LinkedIn job-hunting feature emerge – your first degree connections will be listed who are connected directly to the person posting the job. This is a huge benefit for those who are networked and a bigger lost opportunity for those who are not.

Networking is still the best way to find a job and to relaunch a career. It will be even more important in the future. The key – don’t mistake activity for progress. There are a lot of Do's and Don’ts when it comes to landing your next job, but they all start by being different. Being different at networking is a key part of this.

Lou Adler is the Amazon best-selling author of Hire With Your Head (Wiley, 2007) and the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! His new book, The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired, was published in December 2012.


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