Mastery of the Job Market Game through Resume Enhancement and LinkedIn Utilization

At some point or another, in all likelihood, you will seek employment. When you do, there are many steps you can take to enhance your chances at success. There are common misconceptions and missteps that prolong this process far more than necessary. It pays considerably to know how to play this game.
There are few greater frustrations on the job hunt than the constant rejection – especially for jobs that you are perfectly qualified for and get your heart set on. How many times have you read a job description and said, “This job would be perfect for me!” only to get the rejection notice in your e-mail just hours or days – or even months – later. While they were impressed by your credentials, they went with someone more closely aligned. “How is that possible?”
I’ve endured several needless months of looking, plunked down considerable funds for a career coach and resume revisions once and applied to thousands of jobs so you don’t have to.
First, there is a reason they say, “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” because the most valuable resource in your career path is not talent, not ability, but network.
This chapter will not only delve into utilization of your own network, but how to branch out and forge new additions – even if you are an introvert.
Construction of a resume is crucial to the process, but realization that you are up against dozens – if not hundreds – of other candidates in your quest is even more so. What sets you apart? This is the most important question to ask yourself as you set sail on a new career path. Those differences are what you must expound upon and advertise as you target the next stop on your career path.
Playing the job market game is like gambling; the odds are against you. They could be 10-to-1 but are likely closer to 100-to-1 or worse for every single job you apply to. With the ease of Internet applications in this day and age, anyone can apply to any job that is showcased for all to see on the web. That is why you must also utilize other methods by which to get yourself in front of decision-making parties. You also must temper your expectations and not get down when you are rejected for one or two jobs; if you decide to just apply to a few jobs or decide to stop looking because of rejection, you will destroy your search before you even get started.
There are many schools of thought on resume construction and applying to jobs; personally, my philosophy in building network and seeking careers is akin to my sales philosophy: do not discriminate against any potential lead sources. You never know which one will yield the golden ticket.
Let me liken your job hunt to putting together a marketing campaign, for this is exactly what you are engaging in. You are marketing yourself. This is why – just as companies do for themselves – you must figure out how to differentiate yourself from the rest and emerge the best. Why would a potential employer select you and your resume over the hundreds of others they received?
Fair or not, not every resume sees human eyes after being dropped into the job application well. In essence, it falls into a system; a system that is designed to eliminate as many resumes as possible. The last one standing is the one who takes the job.
And you may feel very proud of your resume; but the majority of the other 100 people who applied may very well be, too. This is why finding and employing every mechanism possible to market yourself is the best way to increase your chances at landing a job.
It starts with presentation. I’ve actually received resumes scrawled in pencil on a piece of loose leaf paper. I’ve gotten the fancy paper, seen one-sheets and several sheets. Truth is, as a hiring manager, I don’t look at resumes much, but they are important when it comes to getting you through the gates.
Initially, your resume will be run against keywords that the employer may be looking to find or avoid. Companies and employers are looking for different things for different roles, which is why many people will tell you to use a different resume for different types of positions you are applying to; there is merit in that statement. The secret sauce changes all the time, but you should make certain your resume is tailored to the role and type of role you are seeking.
As a general theme, what most resumes are missing is real results. As a candidate attempting to attract a company, your goal is to show them what you’ve done in a way they can visualize you doing it for them.
In other words, it is far too common for a resume to read: “Answered phone calls and sold plans to customers.” What does this even mean? Does this make an employer fall all over themselves trying to sign you? Or does this sound like something anyone can do?
The burden of proof is on you to show that you are uniquely qualified for the position; that you will bring something to it no one else can. Rather than stating a simple fact of what your job function entails, post, “Exceeded 125% to sales goal all 15 months in inbound call center position. Averaged 95th percentile in call efficiency. Earned customer service award 6 months for top service surveys. Mentored fellow team members and increased their output 45% within 3 months.”
Your resume is your key to the kingdom. Once you get in, you have to perform for the royalty but before that, you have to gain entrance by showing you bring something of interest. Otherwise, they will not waste anyone’s time – least of all their own.
Should you apply to online openings? Yes. However, you should certainly not make this the chief method of search; in fact, it is not even secondary. But you never know who will see your resume – whether you are networking, reaching out to existing network or dropping your resume off door to door – so you must ensure it is indicative of what you bring to the table.
Each resume should lead off with contact information and roll into a summary, highlighting your claim(s) to fame. “#1 Account Executive.” “Top 5% in Sales Leadership.” “Recognized for training and mentoring peers and construction of process improvement plan that increased office efficiency by 25%.” This is where you trumpet your talents and what you have accomplished for – remember – an employer is asking, “Can they do this for me?”
What areas do you have talents in? “Extensive experience in account management, sales leadership, retail, inbound and outbound call center, customer service, conflict resolution, escalations…” You get the picture. If you have any accolades, significant achievements that you can show through results and unique accomplishments that set you apart from the pack, point them out here.
From here, it is time to summarize your work history. The more distinguished your experience and/or the higher you are attempting to climb the ladder, the more important it becomes to have consistency in your work history. This can be any number of things: first, consistency in dependability for a company and a reason behind any lapses in working. Second, this could consist of an undertaking you have on the side, be it consulting, real estate, writing, or any other entrepreneurial effort. It shows that you have been actively working, have always been trying to work and it lessens questions your potential employer might have about your work history and ethic.
Many of us will have circumstances from our work history that ended a particular job; your explanation as to why it ended should never have anything to do with not liking your boss or employer. Just like in sales, you quickly acknowledge and are prepared for the question, you address it and bring it back to the matter at hand: you see this as the opportunity for you based on your skill set and the job description, and you point out specific items that line up between you and what the employer is looking for.
“Absolutely, I chose to leave that position because it was not in my chief area of interest and I wanted to devote the necessary time to finding my calling. I’m currently only exploring roles in that area, which is what brought me here, and based on the job description and what I have accomplished (such as…), this would be a great fit.”
You might have hated your job and your supervisor, disagreed with their policies and disliked illegal activity they performed, but anything you say disparaging about your previous employer will only make your new prospective one wonder: “Will they talk this way about us?”
You may have been terminated for a job, but you can answer this away by making sure to take the focus off the objection: “Yes, that job ended in termination of employment. My customer service statistics and efficiency were exemplary, however my sales numbers were not. That is why I am seeking a role that will focus on my areas of excellence. Since this role we are discussing does not entail sales, but does involve service and efficiency, it would be right in my wheelhouse.”
Remember: your new prospective employers have seen a lot, talked with countless numbers of candidates previously and they know what they want and do not want. In fact, you may be doing a job that has been done many times before or is being done now and they want to visualize you coming in, doing the job well, performing, and co-existing with their team. Everything you can do in your presentation, your resume and your interview process to convey those attributes and sell that persona will again enhance your likelihood of joining their team.
That said, stay away from generic jargon on your resume like “team player” or “strong work ethic” or “trustworthy” or “excellent customer service skills”; they are not tangible and therefore they do nothing to further your cause. These are attributes you want to illustrate through actual examples of excellence, both in your resume and interviews.
How were you a team player? Did you form any committees to ascertain people’s opinions and foster collaboration? Did you survey your team to determine how you could best serve them?
How do you know you had excellent customer service skills? Did you receive commendations or awards? Did you employ a way to gauge your customers’ satisfaction?
Another valuable item that can set you apart from other candidates vying for the same job is a “brag book”; this is a compilation of your certificates and any other proof of your achievements. It can contain articles you have written, results, letters from supervisors, and anything and everything substantiating your superiority as an employee. When potential employers see this, it serves as evidence of your good standing. It makes the leap of faith any employer makes when they take a new hire at their word easier to make.
For, this is the goal of a job-seeker: take as many steps as possible to eliminate the obstacles in your way and tip the odds more in your favor, cast as wide a net as possible and make yourself stand out above the other candidates you are up against.
Many candidates in this day and age also construct a video resume, whose web address can be attached to your physical resume, sent via e-mail and through social media sites. It does not even have to be professionally compiled or edited; it is you selling a potential viewer on why you are a candidate worth paying attention to. Whereas I do not believe the “objective” segment of a physical resume is vital, here it can be inserted. “I am looking for an innovative corporation who recognizes hard work, wants to grow and will be the company I retire from.”
The trick of job hunting is that there is no silver bullet; you have to reach out to as many places and people as you can with the best presentation possible. Sadly, it’s as if they are looking for a way to eliminate you and – honestly – who can blame them? From their vantage point, they receive 100 or more applicants for one position, all touting the same things – greatness. How do you pick just one person? Even if you’re seeking placement as one of 10 in a new training class, you are still grappling with 10% odds or less in some cases.
This is the very reason why you are rejected for the positions you fall in love with and think you would be perfect for; because 99 other folks are thinking the same thing. We are less-than-thrilled when businesses we work for bring in somebody else’s buddy, right? But if they have someone they know vouching for them, it makes the decision to take the aforementioned leap of faith an easier one. Why take a chance on someone they don’t know when they can hire Jim’s buddy who has done something similar before and who Jim is vouching for? You’re an unknown; a risk and a gamble. Your job search goal is convincing an employer that the risk of hiring you is minimal and the reward will be great.
Of course, these words serve as no consolation when you are suffering through a drought of unemployment – I know this. Nevertheless, it is what we are up against, so to give ourselves a fighting chance, we have to network. We have to become Jim’s buddy. Since not enough people care about what we know, we have to get to know the people who will.
Look at your network. This could be your address list in your phone. It could be your LinkedIn network, or Facebook or e-mail addresses. Your network is people you feel comfortable with reaching out and sticking out job market feelers to.
Let me tell you – there’s no pride when it comes to job searching. You are talking about feeding your family and taking care of your livelihood; people are not going to look down on you because you reach out to them to see if they know of anything that might align with your skills.
In fact, you may also find that you are doing them a favor. Many of your contacts may be compensated for referring high quality people to a position, so this could be mutually beneficial. Furthermore, ask what would you do or have you done when someone has reached out for your help under similar circumstances in the past?
Hard times hit us all. We can prepare against the downside, but it does not mean we will not find ourselves unemployed or even working in a stepping-stone job. The older we get, the more likely this will be the case. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, it is not as likely that we will work our entire careers with one company – or even two – as many of our ancestors did. Because of this, it is likely we will be forced to learn the job market game.
Many people reach out to their network and quickly latch on to something – even something that might be less than what they had intended or are qualified to do. This happens, and we do what we have to do. But just like our actions in our jobs qualify as constantly “interviewing” for the next level, our actions networking – even while we are employed – should be constantly planning against that downside.
Networking can be free, easy and very valuable for a variety of reasons personally and professionally. Thanks to the Internet, some of the best networking can be done either online or by acquiring contact information online. Some simple company research on a wide variety of sites can yield names of those you want to network with, their contact information and methods of contact.
Many people are very open to networking with you for this very reason; they know the value of networking and that there is no telling when a relationship will pay mutual dividends. Ask yourself: if you were in the position for someone to reach out to you and ask for some advice, would you give it to them if you could help? That is the same mentality many others have.
What is your preferred method of reaching out to your existing network? It may be the phone for some individuals; e-mail or social media for others. Remember that when you ask someone for assistance in your job search, it is vital not to be pushy, desperate or demanding. This is a passive, relationship-building process and – like any other part of the job market game – there is strength in numbers.
You get more flies with honey – this is key to networking of any kind. Growing your network also assists in you having more numbers of people on which to rely.
Call the people you feel comfortable calling. Contact the others in the way you see fit so they have the ability to absorb the information and see where you may be of use at their company.
Another reason it is important to constantly network and stay in touch with people is someone may feel opposed to helping you if the only time they ever hear from you is when you want help. This is another reason why social media can be so valuable, because it gives you the opportunity to engage them daily whether it is commenting or “liking” a status or post or sending them a quick message.
Your message to any potential networking source should be complimentary and to the point. Also, you should never ask for the desired end result – a job. This is skipping steps and will often result in no response or in the other person shying away from your request with a cordial rejection of sorts. You also have to realize that not everyone you reach out to is going to be in a position to help you – right now. You never know when they might be, so burn no bridges that may later bring value.
“Jane: How have you been? I hope this note finds you and your family well. I’ve recently begun exploring new career opportunities and was looking for your advice on where I might be able to transition my sales and customer service skills into XYZ Marketing. I’d love to chat for 5-to-10 minutes and get your guidance. If there is anyone else you can think of I should also talk to, I’d appreciate you pointing me in their direction, too. Also, if my network or I can ever be of service, please do not hesitate to ask. Thank you! Vincent.”
Here we have expressed our desire for their well-being, which is always a classic. We’ve announced an interest in looking for a new career opportunity without coming across as desperate (I got fired, I got laid off) and even without spelling out circumstances. Remember: everyone on the other end is always on a need-to-know basis, whether you dislike your current job and are passively looking, or you just got canned and you are trying to get back in the game.
Asking for advice is far better than, “Do you guys have any jobs?” or “are you hiring?” because – again – you have to set yourself apart. People ask people all the time if they have jobs where they are – stand apart! Flatter them with a request for their advice; it shows you respect them and will break down any barriers they may have against such requests.
You have also planted the seed that you would love to talk to anyone else they know, which can assist in your exploration and open new doors.
Finally, you have offered your own network to them in a gesture that makes them aware that if they ever need you for anything, they can feel free to contact you.
Like anything else in sales or business, your #1 goal is getting the person on the other side to put down their walls, let you in and build a relationship. That is what improves your probability at achievement; it’s the “presentation” piece of the job market game.
Be patient and be gracious; you need them now and that’s why it is important to do this on their timetable with what they feel comfortable without being pushy.
Our networks start out at varying sizes but – specifically as we advance in our career or wish to branch out to new fields, it is imperative we add to them. Some prefer networking events and like working the room, meeting new faces and trading business cards like baseball cards. Others prefer a more passive approach, which is why they are often found trolling the Internet job boards to no avail. There is a way, however, to have success right there from the comfort of your home – to start. It is also very effective if done properly.
Networking events can be promising, however you are contending with several others – financial advisors, insurance agents and the like – who are working to get leads. The reason I prefer utilization of LinkedIn and online mediums to locate leads is because it is convenient, effective and highly targeted. You cannot control who shows up to a networking event, but you certainly can control how you geographically target individuals from companies or industries you are interested in.
Another thing to remember is you are not necessarily looking to connect with a recruiter or just a random person at a company of interest. Recruiters are already up to their eyeballs in resumes and will typically direct you back into their funnel by telling you to apply on the site. It does not mean to leave them out of your search; your best bet is to reach out to someone in a position above what role you are looking to fill.
The reason I led off with the resume is because you must have one in order to start playing this game. LinkedIn is a phenomenal site that has been very lucrative in many job searches; the LinkedIn journey begins with your profile.
Like with anything else, standing out for positive reasons will help you catch the eye of a potential employer. Your LinkedIn profile should mirror your resume structure and the nice thing about LinkedIn is that it will prompt you to soup it up quite a bit.
Once you have a strong profile, your next move is to join groups. My recommendation is to join the ones that are geographically and topically conducive to your job search. If you are looking for any industry or geography, your target can be a lot broader or you can even join the groups that your target contacts reside in. The reason for this is that you can connect with anyone in the same group as you, utilizing the shared group as the reason for your connection request. It is another aid in increasing the likelihood of their acceptance.
For, from this point, your entire goal is to build a network of people that can conceivably help you – one way or another.
When it comes to groups, there are some that begin with the title LinkedWorking followed by a geographical area or city name; if there is one near you, it would be advisable to join. There will likely be several others that bear the name of nearby cities – join them. The more of these groups you join, the better chance you have of sharing groups with some of the people you will want to meet.
Once you have joined groups (you have a limit of 50, and should leave some room to join groups that desired contacts are in) it is time to start making connections. Pick a company, or several. Pick an industry. It helps to keep a running list of both to help you log where you have looked.
Search for it in the search bar at the top of your screen and throw in a job title that is higher than the one you seek. If you wish to be a sales rep, pick Manager, Area Manager, Director, VP of Sales. If you wish to be a Manager, pick Area Manager, Director, VP of Sales. If you want to work for a small business, connect with the Director or VP or CEO or owner.
Reach out to the person whose decision it may ultimately be to hire you, or to someone above them. If the VP of Sales calls down to their Director and says, “Hey, take a look at this candidate I’m sending you,” it goes a lot longer way than dropping your resume into the black hole of online applications hoping to make its way upward. If you start at the top, you have a better chance of winding up in front of who you want to meet.
After the results of your search are populated, you can narrow them down to your liking; geographically and by current company, to ensure they are still at the company you are looking at. Of course, there is much merit for the other companies you may find high-ranking officials at. There is much merit to the small businesses that are out there, whose CEO’s are much more available to you than the CEO at a Fortune 500 company.
As prominent as LinkedIn is and is becoming, no one is really off limits. Find someone you wish to connect with, select connect, and it is time to fashion another flattering welcome that gets you in the door.
Again, where many make their mistake is they ask for the end result rather than taking the steps to get there. At this point, we should not ask for jobs or even an interview. Initially, we just want to become part of their network, and they a part of ours.
The request is simple enough; select how you “know” them – often through the same group (you can even change search parameters to only show you people in your groups) and move to the field where you can personalize the request.
“Good morning/afternoon, Tony. It is my sincere hope this note finds you well. Our mutual interests and shared group led me to believe you would be a great person to share ideas with and learn from. I would be honored to be a part of your network. Much appreciated – Vincent.”
You have stated your name and case, flattered them and sought only the connection. From your target connection’s viewpoint, the risk is minimized and they really have no reason to reject your request. This first step has a 50/50 chance of working depending on their frequency of checking LinkedIn and interest in broadening their connections. Many of them will view your profile as well (which you can also monitor), making it all the more important that you make the right first impression with a strong, attractive profile.
Timing from this point is also important; rather than come across as an opportunistic weasel by pouncing on them the moment they accept your request, wait a few days. It reminds me of the movie Swingers when the minimum wait time to call a new potential date is 3 days (or, as Vince Vaughn warns, “You might scare off a nice baby who’s ready to party”). Apply the same wait time here and let the dust settle on the acceptance prior to making next contact.
From here, your odds will diminish further, which is the very reason you again cast a wide net, you have your online applications you fill out and you reach out to your existing network, enhance your resume and even film a video resume. Pull out all the stops. It’s your career, after all. The end result will mirror the efforts put into it.
In fact, using this in unison with your online applications can only bolster your attack. Find a job you feel you’re perfect for online, as we discussed earlier? Perfect! Target leaders in that company via this method.
When you have waited a few days, reach back out to the new contact with a quick message. The easiest way to keep up with who you need to touch base with is by saving the e-mails from LinkedIn regarding those who have accepted your request. Keep them marked as unread until you have reached back out to them.
“Good morning/afternoon, Tony – I hope this note finds you well. Thank you for connecting! The intent of my note is to seek your advice as I am exploring transitioning my skills in sales and management into the pharmaceutical industry. It would be an honor if we could sit down and chat for 15-to-20 minutes so I could obtain your guidance on where I may fit in your business. Please let me know what times this week work best for you, and I will happily make myself available. I look forward to meeting you. Much appreciated – Vincent.”
There are a few ways of doing this; sending messages out like this early in the week leave plenty of time for your new contact to put you on their schedule for the week. A mix of connecting with new people and sending out messages like this is what you are ultimately driving toward; managing your schedule between allotting time to seek out new contacts while actually having advice meetings with those who accept is a dream scenario.
This is a continuing process – often even when you are currently working! Never pin all your hopes on one job or job opportunity; what will you do if it does not pan out? Until you have a job offer for your next opportunity, you are in transition. Even if you are employed and content in this day and age, there is no telling when changes will occur that could put your role in peril. Having a network, building a network in your field or others that interest you and keeping in contact with them is always of benefit.
A smaller number than those who accepted your LinkedIn invitation will take you up on the offer for a meeting in their office or over coffee. Nevertheless, this is what you were after to begin with: a chance to showcase your skills to a live person.
Sometimes, they will suggest a phone call; do not be discouraged. Ultimately, you want to talk to this person to gain insight into the business unit you are interested in; they may give you information, call you in for a meeting or point you in the direction of someone you should talk to. There is no bad discussion here.
Chief to the discussion is to prepare yourself similarly to an interview, but know that you will be doing the driving. You requested the meeting – not the other way around – so you need to come prepared to lead the discussion with questions and commentary on what you bring to the table. This can be daunting for some initially, but once you do a few of these they will come more naturally.
Fashion your pitch like a sale or precisely like the communications you have branded up to this point; thank them, state your business and launch into questions designed to elicit the desired responses. Arm yourself with some knowledge of the industry and their company gleaned from their site or articles. Ask questions and be prepared to answer some.
“Hi, Tony, this is Vincent Scott. We met through LinkedIn – how are you today? Great! First off, thank you so much for taking some time out for me today. I’m currently looking at ways to transition my sales and leadership talents into the pharmaceutical industry and took a specific interest in XYZ Pharmaceuticals because of your prominence in Minneapolis and some of the strategic acquisitions you’ve made. What advice or guidance could you give me on potentially making that transition?” “I see that such-and-such has recently been a challenge in the industry; how are you addressing that?”
From here, listen and ask additional probing questions. What they tell you may be that you have to start from scratch in their business, it may be changes going on in alignment and it might be in new divisions that are being built and not even advertised via online listings. It’s like you are getting the inside scoop.
Ask if there is anyone else you should speak to. Be ready to answer questions they may likely have about your background, experience, skills and accomplishments. They have likely checked your profile and know a little of your background – these conversations can turn into interviews if they like you.
If the meeting is in person, it is another good opportunity to bring along your brag book. Remember – do not force your resume on them and do not solicit an interview. Just cast the wide net of asking for advice and see where it goes.
Some of these meetings will seem utterly unsuccessful. However, if they do nothing more than get you in front of someone new who is prominent in the field who knows you going forward wherever they go in their career and it hones your ability to conduct these meetings, it was a worthwhile investment of your time. Investments do not always pay immediate dividends. Contacts you make today may pay off years down the road.
Just like following a job interview, follow this up with a brief, succinct thank you note showing appreciation for their time and guidance. If they have instructed you to do any follow up activities, do them quickly to reinforce your interest and seriousness.
And remember – your goal is planting as many seeds as possible with the best presentation, best approach and best follow-up possible. There are literally no guarantees in the job hunt, but the fewer gaps you leave in your search, the better your approach. If and when you find yourself in need of a new career path, you will already know how to best play the job market game.

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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