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Spreadsheets, strategies and being ready for the phone to ring: Some tips on keeping your job search organized

Because the phone never rings when it’s convenient.

Spreadsheets, strategies and being ready for the phone to ring: Some tips on keeping your job search organized

When hiring manager Alessan Perez was looking to fill a dispatch position at a large corporation, she received a resume from a candidate who said her career objective was to gain employment in the accounting field. “We opted to schedule the interview anyway, because she was a referral from a current employee,” Perez says.

When Perez called her for an interview, she mentioned that it looked like the candidate was looking for a job in another industry. The candidate replied that she had submitted the wrong resume, and asked if she could submit a new one.

“When she did, the objective was missing, and there was no phone number or email on the header. It was obvious that she had just cut the non-applicable information from the previously submitted resume in a haphazard manner,” Perez says. “While she listed ‘attention to detail’ and ‘strong organizational skills’ as her strengths, we felt her presentation did not support the claim.” The candidate didn’t get an offer.

When you look for a job, organization is essential. It’s simple if you only have one or two resumes out, but it can get more complicated when you apply to multiple jobs in different industries. If you don’t keep track of who has your resumes, where you are in the process with each one, and what the next step will be, something might fall through the cracks — and employers will notice.

Here are some tips on how to keep your job search organized.

Be strategic

One of the most important ways to keep your job search organized is to target it carefully. Applying to every opening in your area won’t be effective and probably won’t get you the job you want. Treat your job search like a marketing campaign, says Elene Cafasso of coaching firm Enerpace. It’s also important to take the long view. “Assume you won't hear back on your first attempt and think through when you want your second, third and subsequent contacts to occur.”

Be prepared for the phone to ring

“The phone never rings when it’s convenient,” says Teri Hockett, CEO of What’s For Work. When you’re in the middle of an intense job search, you need to be ready to talk to a potential employer at any time. Hockett recommends developing a script that sets a professional tone and conveys your interest while buying you a little time: “I’d like to give you my full attention — may I call you back in 10 minutes?” Then ask for the company’s name and a number to call back. Keep a notebook and pen handy to jot down notes.

Make a spreadsheet

Many career coaches recommend putting together some kind of spreadsheet that makes it easy for you to determine at a glance how your job search is going. William Faulkner of Out Loud Strategies says he recommends people start with a spreadsheet that lists a job number, employer, job title, location and status. Additional tabs can include more detailed information such as the position announcement, contact person and potential interview questions.

Track your network

Dave Denaro, vice president of Keystone Associates, recommends making a spreadsheet of networking information as well. When you’re networking, make notes on the names of people you should meet and other companies you might consider. Add this information to your spreadsheet, and include details about who gave you the information. As you follow up, you can email them on how their advice helped you.

“You just manufactured a relevant way to stay in touch with a contact several times after the original meetings,” Denaro says. “People I talk with say they would love to get feedback about the advice they gave in a networking meetings, but hardly ever do.”

Keep receipts

Designate a folder to keep receipts and track mileage for your job-search expenses. In some cases, you may be able to deduct them from your taxes if you itemize.

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