3. Don't job hunt alone. Ask for help and advice. "Networking, as I like to say, is just one letter off from not working," Joel Makower, executive editor of Greenbiz.com, told me with a laugh when I interviewed him for my latest book, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+. It's all about whom you know that can get you in the chair for a face-to-face meeting.
When businesses are looking for candidates, they lean on employee referrals, according to CareerXRoads, a recruiting industry consulting firm. While current employees fill 42 percent of all openings, employee referrals account for about 25 percent of the remainder.
Search for contacts you know who work at the company where you hope to land a job, and tell them that you're applying for a position. Ask if they can put in a word for you or give you any advice. LinkedIn and often your college alumni offices can help you find connections.
4. Don't get fancy with your résumé. Avoid a splashy layout or special effects. Choose a traditional font, such as Times New Roman, in 9- to 12-point size, and use black type on white paper. Other highly readable fonts to consider are Arial, Calibri, Cambria and Tahoma.
In addition to creating the paper version of your résumé, pull together an electronic document you send via email that lands without any odd formatting. The text should be flush with the left-hand side of the document, and you want to use an easy-to-read font. Email it to yourself to check before you send it along.
5. Don't turn your résumé into your autobiography. Keep it timely, focused and short. Most recruiters will scan it in 20 or 30 seconds, so keep it to no more than two pages. Stick to the most recent 10 to 15 years of experience.
Avoid giving dates when it comes to decades-old experience — and only include those ancient jobs if they're pertinent to the work you're currently seeking. There's no need for college graduation dates. Match the experience and skills you cite in your résumé with the precise skills employers say they're seeking in their job posting.
Your résumé should provide employers with a narrative about how you've been successful in earlier jobs. Tell your story with rich details, such as how you reined in costs by a certain percentage, boosted sales by 25 percent or delivered a job two months ahead of schedule.
6. Don't forget to proofread your résumé. This is a deal-breaker for many employers. Make sure your résumé is 100 percent free of grammar and spelling errors. Spell-check is not to be trusted. Double- and triple-check your document.
Any misspellings or grammatical gaffes suggest that you don't pay attention to detail, or aren't that interested in the job — clearly not something a potential boss wants to see.
Ask someone you trust to read over your résumé for you. A second or third set of eyes can catch things you might miss. If you can't find someone, print the document out, then wait for an hour or more before you review it, so you have fresh eyes. I recommend reading it out loud, too. For me, that's the best way to catch missed words and grammatical mistakes.
Next page: Proofread all your correspondence. »