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The Complete Guide to Getting a Job (Whether You’re On Your First or Fifth)

No more of those rinse and repeat job application cycles. Learn how to get a job that matches your values

Two women at work talking about getting a new job

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is the content strategist at InHerSight where she writes about data and women's rights.

There’s more to landing a great job than a nicely formatted resume and a poised interview. Sometimes the job hunt is a grind, sometimes the opportunities come to you, but many of us are approaching the question of how to get a job in ways that don’t serve us, that don’t actually land us a job we want at a company that supports us.

InHerSight’s Complete Guide to Getting a Job will walk you through the eight steps most jobs searches comprise:

  1. Identify your values.

  2. Take inventory of what you have to offer a potential employer.

  3. Build a killer resume.

  4. Check in on your social media presence.

  5. Use your network.

  6. Submit tailored and thoughtful applications.

  7. Interview the company.

  8. Be patient.

Let’s get started on your path to getting that job offer

How to get a job: Identify your values

Your job search should begin with what you want and need.

The best job for you is one that makes the most of your talent and skill. The best company for you is one whose values align with your own. What you want out of your career may change with time, so whether this is your first job search or fifth, check in with yourself on what matters now.

Ask yourself these questions as you plan your job search, perhaps even writing out your answers. They will be a helpful guide.

Questions to ask as you begin your job search

  • If you’re currently working, why are you looking for a change? The answer to this can help to identify what you want in a new workplace that you’re not getting now and identify those parts of your current job you’re ready to leave behind.

  • Are you considering a career change? If so, you should explore companies that support women in career changes with tuition support or training programs.

  • Do you want a company that offers maternity and adoptive leave ? One that offers family growth support ?

  • Do you want or need flexible work hours ? Perhaps you’re a primary caretaker or have family obligations that necessitate work hours outside the traditional nine to five. Perhaps you just prefer a flexible schedule. Read more: How to Negotiate Flexible Work Hours

  • What kind of coworkers do you want? What do you like about your current coworkers? What could be better?

  • How much do you value workplaces that offer plenty of paid time off , wellness initiatives , or social events ? There are plenty of companies out there who value those too.

  • Do you want a company where women comprise a substantial part of the leadership team? Search for companies with female representation in leadership .

  • Is it important to you to find a job that helps you to advance your career? Companies that prioritize management opportunities for women and equal opportunities to women and men should be at the top of your list.

  • What about salary satisfaction ? Some companies are making a point to close their gender pay gaps and pay employees fairly. Others still have lots of work to do.

  • How important is it that you believe in the mission of the company? There are mission-focused companies across all industries.

Once you’ve identified what you want in a new job, it’s time to lay out what you have to offer a company.

How to get a job: Take inventory of what you have to offer a potential employer

No matter where you are in your career, take inventory of what you have to offer a potential employer. This will inform your resume and your job search.

Are you operationally minded and excel at creating efficient systems? Do you have excellent customer service skills? Are you a mentor to younger employees? Do you have an extensive network of contacts the company might be interested in tapping?

Companies look for candidates with both soft skills and concrete skills to add to their workforce. Take a moment to make a list of what you bring to the table.

If you’re considering a career change, take detailed inventory of your transferable skills, like critical thinking, communication (both verbal and written), technical skills (like programming, software, modeling, or processes), team management, and creativity.

How to get a job: Build a killer resume

There’s no rule to how long your resume should be as long as what you’ve included is relevant. Sheer number of pages will not get you noticed unless you are able to fill those pages with relevant information. For example, if you’re eight years into your career as a product manager, college internships or study abroad programs are no longer relevant.

Recruiters and hiring managers review hundreds of resumes, so readability is key. Show your resume to a trusted friend who will be honest with you. Give them 15 seconds to review and then ask, What did you notice first? What kind of job would you imagine I’m applying for?

Aside from professional experience and education, what should your resume include?

Resume tips: If you’re looking for a new job

  • Put your work into numbers: revenue generated, relationships managed, money or time saved, deals closed, people managed, etc.

  • Highlight processes you have created or managed and point to time or money saved by this processes.

  • List relevant projects or initiatives you’ve led, committees you’ve served on.

  • List relevant experience outside of your professional life, like volunteer positions, freelance work, or consulting.

  • Include hard skills, programming languages, software programs, or organizational systems you know.

  • Include spoken languages you use with fluency.

  • List industries or communities in which you’ve built an active network.

  • Are you an expert in your field? Show the potential employer any relevant press you’ve received. Have you been quoted in the media or been given a byline? List those.

  • If you’re changing careers, include an objective statement that highlights this.

Resume tips: If you’ve never had a job before

  • Show specific projects or coursework that highlight your skills and achievements.

  • List jobs you held while in school, both during the school year and during the school year.

  • Include spoken languages you use with fluency.

  • Include study abroad or summer fellowship programs.

  • Include extracurricular activities, like relevant clubs, organizations, and community service.

  • List academic or departmental honors, TAships, and assistantships.

How to get a job: Check in on your social media presence

Before you hit the job market, take a careful look at your social media presence. Roughly 70 percent of employers say they’ve looked up potential employees on social media. There’s no need to purge all social channels or set everything to private. In fact, social media can be used to help you get a great job, and 57 percen t of hiring managers say they’re less likely to hire someone they can’t find on social media.

Clear out anything you consider questionable or borderline. If you’ve ever complained about an employer or coworkers, delete those posts. Pull down photos of that wild trip to Cabo on your last spring break. Use your best judgement on posts with salty language.

Tips for using social media to get a job

  • List your field or title in your profile.

  • Put your email address in the contact line.

  • Post examples of your recent work.

  • Engage with others in your field (or the company you’re interested in) by following, sharing, and commenting.

  • Depending on your field, consider creating a website or portfolio with more information and links to projects. List the link in your profile.

How to get a job: Use your network

Whether you’re a recent grad, an experienced veteran in your field, or seeking a career change, you have a network you can tap in your job search. So start talking.

Talk to friends, colleagues (exercise discretion here if you feel it may jeopardize your current position), fellow alumni, professors, the staff in your alma mater’s career center, the woman sitting next to you at your child’s soccer game. Check out networking events and alumni networks for potential contacts; find professional organizations in your area. Let them know that you’re looking for a new job.

How to tap into your network to get a job

  • If someone in your network has a connection to a company you’re interested in, ask if they’re willing to make an introduction: I know you have a relationship with so-and-so at ACME Corp. Would you be willing to make an introduction. I love ACME’s mission and would love to talk about what they need right now.

  • Take a contact out for coffee or buy them lunch ( or ice cream ). Let them know that you’re on the market for a job and that you’d appreciate any contacts or insight they may have. Be specific about the kind of role and company you’re looking for. Ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction.

  • Use LinkedIn to identify key contacts at companies. Ask a mutual connection if they would put in a good word for you on the platform.

  • Don’t expect someone to hand you a job. You should use your network to help you get in front of the right people and facilitate the right conversations at the companies where you want to work.

How to get a job: Submit tailored and thoughtful applications

Finding a great job is not a volume game. If you approach the job hunt as a statistical problem that will lead to a job if only you submit enough applications, you will be disappointed.

Take the time to tailor your applications to the position you’re applying for. This includes both your resume and cover letter.

Your resume is all about you. Where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished. Use it to list professional experience, education, volunteer experience, awards and accolades, qualifications and certifications, and specific accomplishments.

Your cover letter is not about you. Your cover letter is about the company you’re applying to. Employers love flattery. Use your cover letter to illustrate what you love about the company, why their mission or products or organization excite you. Identify common values, areas where you feel you could add value, or a client or project of theirs you feel passionate about.

How to get a job: Interview the company

The interview is your opportunity to interview the company. When you land an interview (congrats!), go back to your list of values and craft questions that get at those values.

Remember that leading questions get packaged answers. If the type of people you work with is important to you, ask, How would you describe the type of people who work here? rather than Do you think good people work here?

Here are a few more questions you might ask an interviewer:

Questions to ask in a screening call

In larger organizations, you may have a phone screening call with a recruiter or a member of human resources. This person will likely know more about company culture and high-level information about the position.

  • Is this a new position? If so, why has this position been created? If not, where is the last person to hold this role?

  • What are your company values and why?

  • What type of person excels in this company? Who struggles?

  • What kind of professional development and learning opportunities do you offer?

  • What is the interview process and timeline?

  • What is the best way to follow up?

Read more:How to Nail a Phone Interview

Questions to ask a hiring manager

The hiring manager for a position will know more about the team and the day-to-day operations of the role.

  • What type of person excels on this team/company? Who struggles?

  • What do you like about working for this company?

  • What is your team/company really good at right now? Where do you most need to improve?

  • How will you measure success in this role?

  • What is the career trajectory for someone in this role?

  • How does your team exhibit the company values?

After the interview, send a thank-you email to the recruiter and manager. Thank them for their time and let them know you’re still interested in the position (or not). You might even list a few things you learned in the interview that excite you about the position or the company.

Read more:Ask These Questions Before Accepting a Job Offer

How to get a job: Be patient

Finding a job may take time, and that’s okay. It’s better to patiently pursue the right job for you than to make a hasty leap. The right job at a company that supports your skills and growth is worth the wait.

Bonus tip: If the search is taking longer than you had hoped, consider taking on freelance projects or consulting work for companies you’re interested in. This could help move the needle on your relationship.

Read more: How to Accept a Job Offer: When to Negotiate & What to Say

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