5 Steps to a Successful Job Search

With a Little Effort, You Can Get a Job You Love

Searching for a job can be a frustrating and stressful experience, especially if you’re trying to do it the hard way. If you’re looking for jobs in the newspaper classifieds or posting your resume to Monster, Dice and all the rest, you are doing it the hard way. You may not believe this, but the best jobs usually aren’t in the newspaper or advertised online. By the time you see those, they’re often already filled positions. Why? Because companies always look internally first. Then they check their network of connections. Online job boards and newspaper adds are the last resort. The odds of you being able to respond in time are not good. All that happens is that your resume ends up in a recruiter’s database.


What I’m going to share might seem non-traditional, counter-intuitive, and possibly even a hassle. But it works. This formula1, which has been proven to work over and over again, will work for you if you are willing to put the time and effort into it. There are 5 steps to the process:

  1. Decide what work fits your lifestyle – There is absolutely no sense in taking a job that doesn’t fit the way you want to live your life in terms of type of work, location, and hours required. If you take a job that doesn’t fit, you will hate it. This does not apply, however, if you’re in the dire situation of having to put food on the table. In that case, you should be applying where “Help Wanted” signs are posted for any job that pays the bills so you can do a search for a better position.
  2. Make a list of targets companies. Once you’ve decided on the kind of work you want, make a list 5–10 companies that could provide you that opportunity. I know, 5–10 seems like a lot. Spend just a couple of hours shooting for 10, then take whatever list you have and move on to the next step. Google is your friend in doing this search. Local business directories and Chambers of Commerce are also good resources. Here is a key point: It does not matter whether they have job openings posted or not. The best positions never make it to the newspaper or online job sites. Good companies, the kind you want to work for, are always looking for good people. If your value stands out to them, they will make a position for you.
  3. Run your “search campaign”. This could be a separate topic for another article, so what follows are just the highlights. Your search will consist of a 3-part sequence of sending a letter of introduction, followed by a cover letter/resume a week later, and finally doing a follow-up phone call a week after that. You may want to keep track of your process on a spreadsheet with 4 columns: Company Name, Intro Letter, Resume, Follow-up. Simply note the date you completed each part of the process for each target company. The intro letter introduces yourself and that you will be sending your resume the following week. Make sure you send everything to a person, not the HR or personnel department. One week later, send your cover letter/resume package as promised.  Finally, follow up a week later with a phone call and say that you’re following up on your resume, that you think you could really help the company be more successful (or add value, etc), and ask when could you get together and talk. You are effectively asking for the interview. Remember, you must talk with a person. Leaving a voicemail doesn’t count.  At this point you have made 3 contacts with each company. This is deliberate, as it builds “top of mind” positioning for you in the mind of each potential employer.
  4. Interview. If you’ve run a successful campaign, your resume is good, and you are a potential fit for the company, you should have multiple interviews to do. How to interview well is another topic too deep for this article, but remember, you are selling your value. Dress sharp, arrive exactly on time, and by all means, turn your phone off or leave it in your car. The first 30–40 seconds of the interview are crucial. If you don’t present yourself well physically, the interview will be over before it starts. With every answer you give, be sure to work in how you will bring value to the company. Be yourself, and above all, relax. If you’re confident in your abilities, there is no need to be nervous. If you do show nervousness, you will be sending the wrong vibe. And above all, don’t talk about money. That discussion comes only after you understand what the job requires, you know that you want it, and you know that they want you. If you are pressed about salary requirements, say something like “Let’s talk a little more about the position to see if there’s a fit.”
  5. Close the Deal. If you interview well, you will likely have multiple offers to choose from.2Now is the time to talk about money. If the offer is too low, tell them. If they offer $50K, and you were thinking $65K, say “Based on the level of responsibility and duties you describe, I would see that in the $65–70K range. Is that still within your budget?”. Most employers don’t start with their best offer. If they really want you, and at this point you know that they do, they will increase their offer. They have too much time invested in you to not make some sort of counter. Instead of money, you could alternatively bargain for additional vacation days, company car, or other perks.

So there you have it in a nutshell – a job search process that will get results, if you do the work. I’ve left out a lot of the finer details in the interest of time, but if you’re interested in this topic, enter your email address below, and you’ll be sure not to miss any job-related content that I share in the future. You can find secrets to creating a great resume here.


  1. Adapted from the process outlined in Dan Miller’s book, 48 Days to the Work You Love.

  2. If you’re not getting offers after many interviews, it may be time for some self-reflection to figure out what’s going wrong when you’re interviewing.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

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