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The Ultimate Job Search Guide: How to Find a Job (Step-By-Step)

Start from scratch, finish with a catch.


We are taught many things in school, college, and life in general. We are taught how to be competent at a certain job, but no one really teaches us how to find it. It can be overwhelming, and you might not even know where to start your job search. The Internet doesn’t really provide you with a concrete answer when it comes to this question. This is why we decided to do a detailed, step-by-step, job search guide that explains in detail how to find a job starting from scratch, for all the job seekers.

When it comes to a good job search guide, it’s hard to find one.

Most of them provide you with some general advice. However, we made this one concise, specific and informative.

Good things come to those who are persistent and willing to put some effort, so take some of your spare time and learn all the steps you need to take to find a job that fits you and your skills.

  1. Research
  2. Build a resume
  3. Write a cover letter
  4. Appply for a job
  5. Interview
  6. Negotiate the offer
  7. What now?

1. Research

After deciding that it is time to start your job search, the first part of your job hunting process is research. You want to research which job opportunities are there, and which job opportunities are the right opportunities for you.

Every beginning is hard, and you might feel hopeless, but there’s no need for that. The job market is looking good. The unemployment rate for the US is 4.1 percent. Job trends are also changing, meaning that people change jobs more than ever. The average time one person spends at one job is 2-3 years, as opposed to previous generations that would spend 10,20 or even 30 years at one job. Today we have people searching for better opportunities, more money, better benefits, etc.

Note: Job titles are changing.

The job that you are thinking about might be called something different, or there might be another job title that corresponds to a job that requires the same skill set.

job search guide skills

Ask yourself: “What do I do?”, and start from there. Write on a sheet of paper what it is that you do, and what are the skills that are required for this job. On one side write down your soft skills, and on another your hard skills.

  • Hard skills are specifically related to the job you’re doing. They can be computer programming, writing, foreign languages, etc.
  • Soft skills are the skills you possess, that are related to your personality and you might find them useful at work. That includes your people skills, communication skills, character traits, etc.




Make a list of your skills and search for them, and you might find various job titles that include all (or at least the majority) of skills that you have. That way you didn’t limit yourself to one job title.

Afterward, search by job titles.

You can filter your job search to get better results. You can filter it by location, the time it was published, salary, benefits and other parameters you find important.

Look at the job descriptions and save the good ones, whose job boards appeal to you. However, only save the jobs that match your skill set. Don’t waste your time on jobs you’re not qualified for.

Don’t ignore related jobs.

You can find awesome opportunities on ‘related’ jobs as well. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Don’t focus on finding many opportunities, but rather on a few good ones.

Okay, now that you’ve gathered some opportunities, do your research.

Get to know the company.

You want to apply for a job at a company you’ll enjoy working with. By doing your research, you’re making sure that you’ll apply only for companies you believe in. When doing your research, there are 5 questions you need to find the answers to.

companies

Learn the company’s location, what are the company’s values, what is the financial state of the company, do people like working there and do you like the benefits they offer, etc. Now you have a better understanding of what the company is like and whether it will be a good fit.

Try networking to find the right opportunities

That means that you should work on your connections because people are prone to hiring through referrals (someone they know or was recommended).

Consider LinkedIn to search for the company you’re interested in. Once you find their profile, you can see if anyone from your contacts works there that might help you or put in a good word for you.




2. Build a perfect resume

Why is this not the first step?

You want your resume to match the job postings you’re interested in. Never make a generic resume. Always make some changes, a little bit of tweaking for each job listing you’re applying for.

What’s the goal of your resume?

The primary goal of making a good resume is to show your potential employer all your accomplishments, abilities, your competencies, and your work history.

Now, even though you should make an effort to change up your resume for every job listing, there is a standard layout every resume should follow.

THE DESIGN

When it comes to the design of your resume, follow the three golden rules:

  • don’t leave too much blank space or have too much text
  • margins should be 0.7
  • the font should be 11-12

resume part

Why is this important?

First, job recruiters need to know who you are. That’s the obvious part. But they also need to have your contact information, to be able to reach out to you. Some employers prefer to do it via email, some like to call, and some like to text. All this information is here for them to know how to contact you. Also, it shows that you are transparent and don’t have anything to hide from them.

resume part

Next come your skills. Job recruiters need to know what you’re capable of.  This part of your resume should always be customized according to the job listing. Try to use as many skills as you’ve seen in the job description from the listing.

Why is this important?

Numerous companies use software that screens the resumes and searches for these keywords. When real humans take these resumes in their hands, half of them might have already been weeded out. They want only relevant candidates for their company, so keep your resume relevant.

resume part

In this part, you’re expected to show your potential employer your previous accomplishments and your work experience. When writing about what you did in your previous jobs, it would be better to focus on your accomplishments, rather than on your duties.

For example:

  • I launched that
  • I led that
  • I was responsible for that

Put the jobs in chronological order, where your latest job is on top. Put a few bullet points next to the latest job, and for each other job put fewer bullet points.

For example:

  • Current/latest job- 5 bullet points
  • Previous job- 2-3 bullet points
  • Oldest job- no bullet points (only if something important)

Put numbers when talking about your results. People are always interested in exact numbers, so quantify your success everywhere you can.

resume part

Your education should also be in chronological order, from latest to oldest. The bottom of the resume is for any additional information that might be useful and set you apart from others. This is where you write about your hobbies that might be relevant to the job role, participating in different organizations, volunteering, etc. 



1 page should be enough.

Don’t make a resume that is too long, it should have only relevant information on it. However, there are cases where more than one page is okay. That is when you have over 15 years of experience or got to a really high point in your career, which might also mean you have a lot of work history.

Review your resume.

Send it to your friends, colleagues or professors for feedback. Getting a different perspective on it can be very useful.

And of course, the golden rule: Don’t lie on your resume. Make it a pdf file.This is a professional file type and cannot be easily edited without permission.

In the end, your resume should look something like this:

job search guide resume

In this job search guide, we instruct you on what your resume should contain. Yours doesn’t necessarily have to go in this order, but it should have all this information in it. If you want to make this process easier, use a resume builder. It helps a lot.

3. Write a cover letter

The next step of this job search guide may seem optional, but is it really?

Many people are not even sure what a cover letter is and what’s the purpose of it is. This is why many of them skip this step, which just might be the missing detail which could have landed them an interview. Let’s discuss this.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a summary note you’re sending along with your resume. Its purpose is to tell the employers who you actually are, what you have to offer, and why it’s a good idea to hire you. It’s the part where you can get creative and let your personality shine. Some people dread writing a cover letter, which is why they won’t do it at all. That might lead you to a question…

Do I have to write it?

Some job listings have written cover letter preferred/ optional/ required. In that case, you should most definitely write it. If the job listing specifically says something about not sending a cover letter, then you shouldn’t include it. Otherwise, it’s desirable that you send one.

Use it as a chance to show off your personality and entice them into calling you up for an interview. It’s something similar to an elevator pitch, but in writing.

What to include?

If you’re unsure of what should be in your cover letter- it should have about three paragraphs. The first one is where you address them. Do not write To Whom It May Concern. This is the wrong way to start your cover letter. That just shows them that you didn’t do your research and have no idea who are you writing to.

Do your research to find out who are you addressing this cover letter to. That way you can start with Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name. If you don’t know their identity, write down their roles. For example, Dear Managers.

As you shouldn’t lie on your resume, a cover letter is no exception to that. Don’t exaggerate, tell things as they are. Be brief and to the point. No hiring manager wants to read a whole fable about your life when they have tons of resumes and cover letters to go through.

Include a Call to Action in your last paragraph. Write that you hope to hear from them, hope to see them in an interview or something similar to that. Don’t write that you want them to call you. It may be off-putting.

This is what your cover letter should look like:

job search guide cover

Don’t repeat the things from your resume. There’s no need to read the same thing twice, just in different formatting. See your resume as a dish, and the cover letter represents all the spices that will make the meal tasty.

4. Apply for a job

The research has been done, and one thing is clear: candidates that apply in the first 48 hours since the job listing was up, have a better chance of getting hired than those who apply after. Competition is fast, and you should be too.

However, if you see a job you’re interested in, and the listing has been there for several days or even weeks, don’t hesitate to apply. Your chances may be lower because of that, but you don’t know that for a fact.

Some job recruiters look at applications as they arrive, but some wait until they accumulate. It all depends, which is why you should always apply, no matter the time the job listing was up. 

Now, while applying for some jobs, they might have application forms you’re required to fill in. You might be required to fill in the information that’s already on your resume. Even though this might seem redundant, do it anyway. Even if you see that some fields are optional, fill them in regardless. These additional fields may show that you’re dedicated enough to complete their form.

To follow up or not to follow up?

Some people feel like this is too much, but there really is no right or wrong answer to this. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. However, if you do decide to follow up, this is how you should do it.

follow up

Wait 7 days before following up on your job application. Social media can be very helpful when it comes to finding out who is the person you should contact. Do some research on who’s the right person, and then follow up with an email. Include an intro, your application materials and don’t forget to tell them that you already formally applied.

  • don’t call them, it’s too invasive
  • don’t send them any kind of gifts, it’s tacky and unprofessional
  • don’t panic if they don’t get back to you

Pro tip!


Track all your applications. Know when you sent them, to whom, etc. This way you’ll know how many applications you have that are swirling around. By keeping track of these things, you’ll know how much time has passed since you’ve sent your applications, and if you should get back to searching for new job opportunities.



5. Interview

After you’ve successfully completed previous steps, you will be called up for an interview. Even though this seems like a routine, it’s not completely the case. There is a pattern, but every company has its own rules. Some companies do one interview, while some do several interviews until they’re sure about the person they want to hire.

The interview can consist of various testings:

  • skill set testing
  • personality test
  • analytics testing

The golden rule for any job interview is preparation.

Do your thorough research about the company to avoid any surprises.

What to wear?

When deciding on your outfit for the interview, keep one thing in mind: you need to look professional.

Go to their website, social media pages, etc. There’s a big chance you’ll see pictures from the company. What are people in the pictures wearing? Of course, if the dress code seems really casual, you keep it business casual. Don’t show up in sweats or something revealing. Respect the company’s culture as well.

Arrive 10 minutes early.

Always greet them with a smile and a firm handshake. Once you’re in there, it’s on. You can never know the exact questions they are going to ask you, but some interview questions are standard in every job interview.

job interview
When you’re answering the questions, be concise. Don’t ramble on because you’re afraid of the awkward silence. Provide them an answer and wait for the next one. You don’t want to waste their time, as they surely don’t want to waste yours.

Why do you want to work for this company?

This is your time to show them that you’ve done your homework. As you previously researched the company, you can think of specific reasons that are solely related to this company. Look at their webpage and social media channels for some news about the company. You can comment on that as well, in case there is some specific news.

It is possible that you would like to discuss your potential salary, but this part always seems tricky. How to do it? How to begin? What to ask? Here’s a possible scenario:

-I would like to ask you, what is your range for this specific role?

-What do you hope to receive?

-I don’t have the exact number, but hope to get a competitive pay and fair compensation for my work.

This is if you really don’t want to say the numbers first.

When talking about your strengths and weaknesses, don’t play the perfectionist card. You will not stand out using cliché phrases. Be honest, tell them about some of your weaknesses and how you deal with them, and what improvements you have made, etc. They’re interested in hearing how you have grown.

problem solution
You can talk about a problem at your previous job (or life in general, if you can make it relevant), how you dealt with it and what did you learn from it. The learning part is what interests them the most.

You’re likely to be asked about your previous/current job. Do not bash your previous/current company, boss or coworkers. Be diplomatic. Otherwise, you’ll seem disloyal.

At the end of an interview, they will probably ask you if you have any questions for them. Prepare some questions that are specifically linked to the company, after doing your research. If you can’t think of any specific question, there are a few generic questions that you can pull out of your sleeve.

  • What do you think is the biggest challenge for this role?
  • What do you like most about working here?
  • Who would I mostly work with?

It’s possible that because of nerves you can’t think of some questions on the spot. If these questions come to your mind after the interview, feel free to email them.

Some people contemplate sending a thank-you note. If you’re thinking about it, there’s no reason against it. You can send them an email and thank them for their time, saying that it was a pleasure to meet them. If you want to do it the old-fashioned way, use a simple card with a nice thank-you note. Don’t send any flashy cards or gifts.

They will probably tell you the approximate time you’ll hear back from them. If you don’t hear from them that exact date, don’t panic. It may take them a few days longer than they said. In most cases, you’ll get an answer (even if it’s a negative one).


However, if quite some time has passed and still no response- it’s a response on its own. And it probably means that they opted for someone else. But don’t worry, because there’s still plenty of other fish in the sea. And now you’re a more experienced fisherman.



6. Negotiate the offer

After all the previous steps, here comes the waiting phase. Most commonly, you are contacted via phone.

They call you and the job offer is on the table. What now?

Your first instinct may be to say yes without even letting them finish but don’t get overexcited. Let them talk and listen to their proposal. Thank them and ask them when they need an answer.

Once you hear their proposal, one of three things can happen:

job search guide job offer

  • you’re stoked about it and everything sounds perfect (this is an ideal scenario, but it doesn’t happen too often)
  • you’re stoked about it and most of the things sound good, but there are a few things you’d like to discuss (this is the most common scenario)
  • it turns out completely opposite of what you thought it would be and you don’t want it (so you politely decline)

Let’s talk about the most likely one, as this is the negotiating part. Once you hear their proposal, the pay might be slightly lower than you anticipated. Maybe some of the benefits are not right up your alley and you want better benefits. It can all be discussed.

If you are wondering what to say in cases like that, you can try:

Thank you for your offer, I’m very excited.
I really appreciate it. However, based on my research, I think my pay should be ______.
Is that open for discussion?

Of course, do your research. Don’t come up with a random number and ask for unrealistic pay. Bluffing should be left for poker, and job negotiations should be transparent.

Of course, once you propose the number to them, you should also be able to explain it. Have reasons to back your number up. Remember, it’s important to know your worth, do not underestimate yourself. You want a fair pay, and your potential employer probably wants to have satisfied employees.

However, it’s not always about the numbers.

job benefits

Sometimes the company won’t be able to offer you more money, but you can discuss some other benefits with them. Think of more free days, more days where you would be working from home or something else. 

What if you didn’t get the job?

Worst case scenario, you might get a call and hear that they decided to go with someone else. It means that you just weren’t a good fit for the job, and that is okay. Thank them for their time and ask them for their feedback. The majority will give you a feedback. That way you will be better informed for the next opportunity.


Don’t let it get in your head. Just because you didn’t get this job, doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It just means that there will be an opportunity that will be a better fit.



7. What now?

You’ve done all the work. Right now, there are two possibilities.

You either got the job (congratulations! ), or you didn’t land the job.

If you got the job, that’s great news. You did your homework and it paid off. The first stage is done. Now’s the time to develop a plan with goals for your new work.

If you didn’t get the job, don’t fall into desperation. You know you’ve done the work. You did the research, built a perfect resume, cover letter, and completed all the steps. Use that experience for the next job you apply to. It is expected that you will get several NOs before you get your YES. Follow the 6 steps and you will surely end your job search with great success.

Key takeaways

  • it’s important to systemize your job hunt method, which is why this job search guide is divided into steps
  • the first step may seem the hardest- and that’s the very beginning. If you start the right way, you’ll increase your chances of getting a job by 60%
  • a good job candidate is a well-informed candidate, make yourself informed
  • your resume and cover letter are what will get you an interview, they should be spick-and-span
  • prepare for the interview, go through the most common questions and be ready to answer them
  • once you nailed these steps, get ready for an offer. Know what you want, be realistic, but don’t underestimate the worth of your work
  • this is a process, have patience. If you do it right, this process will be significantly shorter and you’ll be more successful.