January means a new year, and for many, a new start—things like looking for a new job and planning for the future. With the flip of the calendar to 2016, January also means that companies are solidifying their budgets and strategic plans and know that in order to be successful, they need the right people in the right seats to move the business forward.

As a candidate, one way to stand out is to keep applying when others are not over the holiday break. But what do you do when January arrives and the floodgates open? As a hiring specialist who helps companies find and retain top talent, I can tell you that we generally peruse 100 to 300 resumes to find our client’s next superstar. And during this pre-screening process, I see many poorly prepared candidates who aren’t ready to speak with us, let alone to our client. Where the holiday season is huge for retailers, this time of year is very busy for hiring managers. This is a good thing for jobseekers, most of whom needed a job yesterday.

If you’re jobless or looking to enhance your career situation, now is a time to change your mindset and get back to the basics of an effective job search. Here’s a refresher on job search etiquette, with some common blunders sprinkled in along the way.

1. You’re submitting a hundred resumes a week, but are you tailoring them to each position?

I can’t tell you how many times we get resumes with typos, referencing the wrong job, or not at all connecting their background to the position of interest. This happens with all kinds of positions, at every level of the workforce. You might make that connection in your cover letter, but it also has to be in your resume.

2. Organization is key

Keep a record of the jobs you’re applying to, including titles, companies, and contact information. If your resume is posted on any of the job boards like Monster or Career Builder, refresh them often and keep them up to date. This will save you from being caught unprepared or confused about what type of position a hiring manager is calling about.

3. Be accountable

We hear from almost every candidate, “I have been sending resumes, but I never hear anything back.” Meanwhile, we hear from employers and even our own recruiters, “We never heard back from that candidate. Why did they even send us a resume or apply?” The frustration is mutual.

The lesson here is that if a hiring manager calls or emails you, reply. Even if you’re no longer interested or have already secured a position. It’s the considerate and professional thing to do, and you never know what the future holds. You could end up applying for another job at that same organization 5 years down the line.

4. There is no crying in baseball

If you’re contacted personally for an interview, be prepared to tell your story in a way that connects to that specific position, and shows how you can help that organization. We constantly hear from candidates that only want to talk about being the victim rather than taking responsibility—”It’s the economy’s fault,” or “I’ve been going through some personal issues.”

As hiring authorities, we want to speak to excited, motivated individuals that are ready to discuss how they can provide value. You also have to be prepared for when the hiring authority hones in on what you don’t have—candidates typically get offended by this and become defensive. This line of questioning must be handled with readiness and professionalism. Respond with something like, “While I may not have the exact skillset you’re looking for, this is what I have done in the past to get up to speed with the requirements of my position.”

5. Play your part

According to our hiring clients, everyone needs interview coaching. Many candidates just show up and expect the employer to control the interview. The most effective interview for the candidate, and the most valuable for an employer, is extremely interactional. Be ready.

6. Follow up

As a job seeker in 2016, it’s your responsibility to appropriately follow up on any candidate process you participate in. Many times, I speak with candidates who tell me about an interview they thought went very well. Then I ask them about the next step, and they don’t know what to do. It’s entirely appropriate at the close of an interview to ask about next steps, but then do your part to follow up accordingly. Check in with your contact during the recruiting process, and do so with respect. Do not become impatient or stalk that person.

It’s a new year. Make it a new you. Employers will love interacting with you!

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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