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Career Watch: Honing your job-hunting skills

Q&A: Kathryn Ullrich

The executive search consultant and author of Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success talks about job-hunting techniques.

What's the No. 1 mistake that job hunters make? Too many job hunters play the generalist card, saying, "I'm good at writing code" or "I do project management." Today, companies aren't looking for generalists; they're looking for specialists. Job seekers, as a result, must develop a personal brand, distinguish their skills and strengths, and design their job search around specific industries and organizations. Recently, for instance, a well-known software company was seeking an IT director "skilled in advanced testing techniques, agile methodologies and analytical measurements for improving releases." In short, it wanted a specialist.

Are people getting the most out of social media as a job-hunting tool? Many job hunters are leveraging social media effectively. Yet many others are attempting to get too much out of it, while still others aren't doing enough. My advice regarding the top three sites is, first, to make LinkedIn your No. 1 job-search tool on social media. Besides updating your profile and looking at job postings, join groups, follow organizations, and research contacts at target companies. Employers posting jobs on LinkedIn will probably respond to your messages, but don't count on everyone reading LinkedIn messages.

As for Facebook, you of course want to network, but also be sure to visit the Jobs section on Facebook Marketplace, where you can search by keyword, company name, job title or location. Also, be sure to check your privacy settings. Corporate recruiters can, and will, peruse your page.

With Twitter, you can follow target companies, plus have news on key positions and organizations delivered to your smart device. Use hash marks to search for jobs, i.e., #job or #Java.

Finally, remember that humans, not computers, do the hiring. Once you've done your research online, send personal emails, make telephone calls and set up face-to-face meetings.

People who work with technology sometimes have all the skills needed for an available job, but not the skills needed to get through an interview successfully. How can they improve in that area? When you develop products or services, you must think about the customer's wants and needs. So in an interview, think of your interviewer as your customer, and focus on what's important to him or her. (Hint: Study the job specifications along with the key questions in your preliminary screening interview.) If an interviewer asks for an example of a successful project, pick one that might be most relevant to his or her needs. For instance, if the company delivers online product releases on a daily basis, don't discuss a software program with a one-year development cycle. Also, to prepare for interviews, create a list of common questions, develop a variety of answers, and practice out loud.

Tech Is Tops

Young professionals (college graduates with one to eight years of work experience) were asked to choose up to five "ideal" workplaces from a list of 150 employers. Several IT companies made the top 10. Moreover, Facebook got the most write-in votes.

The top 10, based on the percentage of ballots they appeared on:

1. Google

2. Apple

3. Walt Disney

4. U.S. State Department

5. Amazon

6. FBI

7. Microsoft

8. CIA

9. NASA

10. Teach for America

Source: Universum survey of 10,306 young professionals, conducted November 2010 to January 2011


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