22 Game-Changing Job-Search Tips from a Recruiter

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Looking to stand out from the pack during your job search?

As an executive search consultant and civic-connector, I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews and networking meetings. Here are some of my observations from years on the job, insights you can use to beat out your competition.

Editor’s note: We see a theme in these tips — the importance of saying “thank you.” Gratitude and appreciation go a long way!

1. Candidates in career transition who you take the time to help rarely remember you when they’ve landed. That means if you remember to thank your recruiter, you’ll stand out.

2. Most unsolicited networking requests come in some form of “please help me” or “help someone I know find a job.” How can you network differently?

3. The questions, or lack thereof, posed by candidates are a crucial insight into how they think. Ask smart questions during your interviews!

4. Candidates who use “we” more than “me” have a higher likelihood of moving forward in any search process.

5. Personal, hand-written thank you notes from a candidate or networking contact are memorable, rare and effective.

6. All candidates benefit from showcasing soft skills: curiosity, empathy, positivity, honesty, energy, listening, follow-through, gratitude, vision and mental agility.

7. Think of your resume as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. What matters are the choices you faced, what you chose, why you chose it, what happened as a result of that choice, and what you learned from the decision.

8. Your reputation matters.

9. Thank those that help you along the way. You never know who will ultimately influence a hiring executive in their own assessment of your reputation and candidacy.

10. Leaders in career transition who view it as a period of life to learn, share, grow and help others succeed more quickly, with greater fulfillment, and with more value gained from the experience.

11. Without exception, people help people they like. Be likable. Help others without asking for anything in return. Say thank you. Follow up. Actively listen. Be present.

12. Own your weaknesses and failures as a leader and as a professional. All leaders have them.

13. We live in a 2-degree world. Don’t burn bridges.

14. Take the high road. If you can’t say something nice about a former employer or co-worker, well, you know what to do.

15. Human beings have an incredible authenticity-filter/radar/antenna regardless of formal education/training/job. Be real.

16. We all want to be heard and respected. Listen first.

17. Say thank you to everyone in your circle. And say it a lot.

18. Your email says something about you. Retire the hotmail account.

19. When interviewing, think of it as a conversation, not an interrogation. It’s appropriate, pause, think and reflect before responding.

20. Body language is 80 percent of how we’re heard and perceived, especially in an interview. Be cognisant of your facial expressions and what you’re doing with your arms and hands.

21. Do your homework. It’s your job to be prepared and informed for a networking meeting or interview.

22. You can be too early for an interview. Don’t arrive earlier than 10-15 minutes. Anything more and the interviewer may wonder why you have that much time on your hands.

Lars Leafblad is a principal with KeyStone Search, a retained executive search firm in Minneapolis, MN. He’s also the founder of Pollen and a former national BBQ competitor.


  1. A pretty good and extensive list of tips. The key with networking is to be personable engaging and likeable. Better still don’t start the conversation with a version of ‘do you know of any vacancies I might suit’. There is a real skill to networking to find a job but it is an essential one in these tough times. This is a link to a free guide on effective networking

  2. Anne Stilwell

    Agree with Tony G … good list of tips. Another one to remember is that people like to talk about themselves, so don’t be in such a hurry to tell an interviewer about yourself that you miss the cues to ask about them. Things like “How long have you been with XYZ Company”, “What do you like best about the culture here?” are good conversation starters, and they show that you are interested in others. You’ll usually get a good opportunity to share something important about yourself using this approach, and that helps make the interaction more like a discussion than an interview, or in the case of a networking chat – a request for assistance.

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  4. Adeyemi

    23) Don’t send a resume, send a proposal! If you are really interested in being of service to a company, search for a problem that falls within your area of expertise and proffer a viable solution. Even if, for reasons best known to the recruiter, the solution won’t work you will stand out as a potential problem solver.

  5. Chelsea Kroes

    I’m a Recruiter and agree with most of the tips provided here.

    However, in tip #4, you suggest “candidates who use “we” more than “me” have a higher likelihood of moving forward in any search process,” which I don’t necessarily agree wtih.

    While it’s important to demonstrate that you’re team oriented and collaborative in your approach, as a candidate you also need to emphasize your specific role in a project or team and what you brought to the table. Candidates that always use “we” can come across as being a part of a successful team without giving the recruiter or team a sense of their contributions as an individual.

  6. Andrew

    Great tips! These skills don’t just apply to job-hunting but to a wider real world context as well. Dealing with people is one of the most important skill set one can learn.

  7. Roz

    Real interesting how so much of this is common sense but allot of people can’t jump out of their shells to actually make these concepts work. I always ask people I interview what they know about our company and when interviewers say they didn’t do their homework the interview usually ends there.

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  10. Guest

    I’m starting to wonder about the whole “be super nice and altruistic” part of job search advice. There are a lot of people who are very successful and did not get there by doing this. They were decisive, dominant, shameless self-promoters, etc. There are also a lot of super nice people out of work. But any kind of advice helps.

    Thanks for the post

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  13. These are excellent tips for most professionals out there- thanks for the insights. However, I contest the last point that you can be too early for an interview. I think this is a point of personal preference and you should give yourself time to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the interview process. I think it is better to give yourself too much time because the alternative of being late or just barely making it and looking like a wreck because you just ran off the train with 10 minutes to spare is not good.

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