The 5 steps you should take before you embark upon a job search

Prepare, hone in, be patient, rehearse and clean up those social media profiles.

The 5 steps you should take before you embark upon a job search

Making mistakes early on in the job-search process could torpedo your chances of landing your dream position. Start your search on solid ground and build momentum for success by following these five steps.

1. Know your strengths, skills and interests

People can focus on the wrong things when they start a job search, such as writing a resume, practicing an elevator pitch or buying a new suit, says Mary Fain Brandt, owner of TRU Career Coaching & Consulting in San Diego. Instead, job seekers should focus on the transferable skills they can bring to a new position, as well as their talents and interests. They should also try to picture their ideal job and any “deal breakers” they may encounter.

“You need to know who you are before you can decide what you want to do,” she says. “After those first two steps are done, then you can create a path on how to get there.”

2. Target your search

Before you reach out to your network or send a resume, identify a target, says Michelle Robin, career search expert in Buffalo Grove, Ill. “Too many times, I hear from job seekers who have multiple skills that they want to cast a wide net because they have the ability to do so many things.” That makes it hard for hiring managers to determine who you really are and the value you can bring to an organization.

3. Clean up your social profiles

Hiring managers often do a quick Internet search to check out potential hires. Kristina Butler of KB Career Solutions in Fredericksburg, Va., recommends taking up some online housekeeping before you start applying to jobs.

“Ensure your public social media profiles present an image you are comfortable with your future boss seeing.”

4. Make sure your documents are perfect

You likely have a resume file sitting around from the last time you looked for a job. Don’t just send it off without looking at it or updating it — review your application documents carefully to make sure they have no typos and are filled out properly, says Amy Tenney, law professor and career coach at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. Ensure the documents reflect the value you’ve added to past positions as well as your skills and experiences.

If you need some guidance, check out these sample resume templates.

Job seekers cannot afford to submit anything less than perfect documents, Tenney says. She has seen errors such as an otherwise excellent resume that left out contact information, inappropriate file names (resume!!!!!.pdf) and cover letters with names misspelled.

5. Check in with references

Review your list of potential references and see if they’re still relevant to the jobs you’re considering. If they are, contact them to see if they’re still willing to be references, Tenney says. Confirm that what they have to say is positive. Otherwise, review your work history and identify others who could serve as references.