One of the first COVID calls came in late April. Emily, the daughter of a neighbor of ours, had been laid off. The business she worked for sold restaurant supplies to popular restaurants in the Houston area. The restaurants were in lockdown, no one was ordering anything, and even though Emily was a top salesperson, the salespeople with the least seniority were all laid off. She was crushed. Emily had to move back home to live with her parents with her three dogs and their four cats. It wasn't a good situation.

Her mom called one afternoon and asked if I could help Emily get a job. She’d been submitting resume after resume and couldn't even get an interview for a barista at a drive-through coffee shop. It can be hard to make the cut when everyone's out there looking for a job.

Fast forward eight months, the country's still in lockdown, and you may find yourself in the same situation Emily was in. And to make things worse, the news reminds you every day that over 10 million people are looking for jobs and that employers have hundreds, even thousands of applicants for every open position. You're scared to even start looking. It's okay. You just need a little help to jumpstart your job search.

It's easy to get confused and overwhelmed by all the moving parts and things you have no control over in a job search. But if you focus on the fundamentals you can jumpstart your job search, and get the job you want.

And that's just what I did for Emily.

Job Search Fundamental #1: Write a Smart Resume

There's a big difference between the average resume and what I call a smart resume. The average resume includes a generic summary or objective at the top and an employment history that reads like a job description and makes you look – you know – like the average candidate. And we don't want that. 

To establish yourself as a top candidate, you've got to have a smart resume. You need a resume that can get through the artificial intelligence (AI) filters of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS.) ATS is a type of software used by businesses to quickly scan and sort the hundreds of resumes they receive for each job.

Because of AI, 75% of resumes don't make it through the ATS first cut. What that means is that if you have a smart resume that's written specifically to make it through the AI of applicant tracking systems, you have just leapfrogged over everyone else and are now in the top 25% of applicants. You didn't suddenly get more experience – you just got a better resume.

So, to jumpstart Emily's job search, I started with her resume. I got rid of the fancy formatting, columns, and fonts and created a streamlined resume that was easy for the AI of applicant tracking systems to analyze and categorize. If an ATS runs into a fancy element that it can't read, it doesn't try to figure it out – it just dumps that resume in the "can't read" pile. Emily's resume was pretty to look at but had so many fancy elements that it was ending up in the can't read pile. We streamlined the formatting, fonts and used standardized section headings to make her resume more ATS-friendly.

Then I added keywords like business development, account management, up-selling, and cross-selling because these are skills that hiring managers are looking for in a salesperson. Emily needed those keywords in her resume for the ATS to pick her out as a top candidate. 

Her resume went from average to impressive in less than an hour. No kidding. You can jumpstart your job search with a smart resume too!

Job Search Fundamental #2: Networking

Networking is more important than ever. Over 70% of jobs are never advertised. Never. They're not on job posting websites, and they don't show up on the company's website.

Emily was initially reluctant to let people know she'd been laid off and that she was looking for a new position. She was embarrassed and felt like she was imposing by asking people if they might know of a job that would be a fit for her.

Let's get over that hurdle right now. All you're doing here is asking people to let you know if there's a job they've heard about that you'd be a fit for. And if they have, you're just asking them to pass your resume on with a word or two about how they know you and why you'd be a good fit for the position and the company. And that's it. You're not asking them to pester the hiring manager until you get an interview or camp outside the recruiter's office until someone promises to look at your resume. If you think about it, you're actually giving them a chance to look good by helping the company fill a job.

In the grand scope of life, passing your resume along is not the biggest favor you'll ever ask a friend, so stop feeling like you’re imposing and just ask. You'd do the same for a friend, wouldn't you?

I had Emily make a list of her friends that worked at companies that employed salespeople. We started with friends in the restaurant industry and expanded to the hospitality industry. I drafted a one-paragraph email for her to send with her smart resume attached. The key here is to make the email a quick and easy read that asks for help without making the person feel obligated. You know, just an email between friends.

Then I had her parents go through the same process. They made a list of people they knew in the restaurant industry – her parents knew three people – and people they knew in the hospitality industry – they knew one person who owned several Marriott hotels. I drafted a short email for them to send with Emily's resume attached.

Emily sent out the emails with her resume to all the people on her list. And her parents sent out their emails too. Within two days, her parents got an email back from the person they knew who owned several Marriott hotels. He was looking for a salesperson to help promote their new program selling hotel rooms to people who need to work remotely but can't work from home. You know, like someone who has small children wandering in during Zoom calls or multiple dogs barking loudly in the background.

Emily had an interview on Monday of the following week, and on Friday, they offered her the job. Boom! She started a week later, and after a month, she and her three dogs moved into their own apartment. Everyone was happy.

The Fundamentals Will Work For You

Using just two of the job search fundamentals - that aren't really that complicated or hard - Emily landed a great job with even better long-term career potential than her previous job. Focusing on the fundamentals worked for Emily, and they'll help jumpstart your job search too.

If you need a little, or a lot, of help to jumpstart your job search, check out my coaching options here. Or, shoot me an email to ask a question. Because looking for a job is easier with a little help from a friend.

Valerie Hayes is an award-winning Human Resources professional who got her first job by out-interviewing her competition. Now she uses her experience from both sides of the interview table to help you get the job you want. She offers practical, encouraging coaching and advice that works. Contact Us to have Valerie speak at your online event or to book her as a podcast guest.