What’s Your Job Search Killer: Strategy or Messaging?

strategy or messaging killing your job searchA job search killer come typically come in two different forms: strategy and message.

After all, the struggle to identify all the moving parts of the job search and integrate all of them into a strategy is a daunting task (not to mention a moving target). And taking all your skills, experience and career goals and weaving them into a compelling career message tailored for each employer is difficult at best.

Worse yet: after all that work, the whole process sometimes seems pointless. Getting a call-back from an employer seems impossible! So what are you doing wrong?

Is there a fundamental issue with your messaging? Or is the problem with your job search strategy?

The likely answer: your job search killer is probably… both.

Job Search Killer No. 1: Strategy

Your job search has to have a foundation. The entirety of your search has to encapsulate one cohesive, integrated strategy. To get these elements in place, ask the following questions to determine if you have:

  • An understanding of your industry and how jobs are changing?
  • An understanding of the market— do you know where the best opportunities will be with regard to your skill sets?
  • An understanding of your network to know who can be the most help?
  • An ability to articulate what you are looking for and how your skills will bring value to a business or organization?

Does Your Job Search Have a Foundational Strategy?

Answer the questions from the section above. If you are having trouble, then take the time to investigate. When talking to people in your industry, when participating in groups on LinkedIn, ask questions to glean important information about your industry, the market, and get their ideas on how you can best bring value.

Revisit these questions at least once a month and either confirm or tweak your answers to maintain a consistent focus during your search.

The composite of these answers will shape and direct your job search. They will help you focus, track, and eliminate unproductive activities.

Job Search Killer No. 1: Messaging

No matter where someone looks, your finely crafted message has to be consistent and substantive.

Consider all the places where a potential hiring professional may find information about you. Include the following:

  • LinkedIn (Your picture, profile summary, experience, groups, comments, etc.)
  • Your cover letter and résumé
  • Your network and how they talk about you
  • Conversations with you (phone, voice mail, and face to face)
  • Email inquiries or responses
  • Text messages
  • Your dress and non-verbal behavior during an interview

Every time you engage with a potential hiring professionals, and every time they experience you through these mediums, there has to be a consistent message.

Take time to carefully read your LinkedIn Profile, your résumé, and your practiced responses to standard interview questions. Consider the details. Is there one cohesive message?

This is what people know about you—that you can control. The responses from your references will hopefully substantiate your messaging. TIP: Don’t veer away from your foundational message. Substantiate the messages with examples, but stay focused. (No rabbit trails!)

Check for overused, generic words and phrases. You can do a quick Internet search to find the overused word lists. It includes words and phrases. Here are a few examples: “dynamic, strategic, thought-leader.” Also consider these common, yet typical entries that don’t say enough about the quality of your work:

  • Instead of “excellent customer service” how about “customer service enthusiast” or “a sharp focus on customer satisfaction”
  • Rather than “strong communication skills, written and verbal” (I really groan when I see this) how about: “Clear, efficient business communication”
  • Instead of the generic “project management” (another entry that is guaranteed to get professionals to ignore you…wat kind of project management? A birthday party? an event for 450 people?) be specific, like “IT SDLC project life-cycle management”

Finally, look at every single statement on your résumé. Do they indicate the impact that your work had on the business? Are they truly a result of your work? These are the sections that hiring managers read. These are the statements that win interviews.

This process doesn’t happen overnight. As job seekers educate themselves on their industry, the jobs market, and the messages that their readers receive, they will be able to thoughtfully tweak their message and their strategy until they start seeing positive feedback, and then real results!


Think critically and stay ahead of the curve.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Forward Motion Careers.


Forward Motion Careers


Marcia LareauAbout the Author: Dr. Marcia LaReau has served in the business world for over ten years, including Fortune 100 companies. As a Curriculum Designer and Learning Technologist, she lead training initiatives for projects spanning 44,000 employees on four continents. As an HR Director, her use of unique, effective communication skills focused on learning processes to increase effectiveness and employee efficiency thereby reducing training budgets and maximizing training ROI.



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