Recruiter’s toolbox: steps for a strategic job search

Looking for a job can be a pretty daunting task, especially in early career. Here are some suggestions for organizing your search and submitting applications that will surely get recruiters’ attention!

Starting off from the ground up: define your career goals first

Before starting your job search, you should have clear and realistic career goals that take into account your skills, aspirations and the state of the job market at the time of the exercise. Here are some things that should absolutely be considered:

  1. What are your aspirations? Which sectors, which industries are you interested in?

  2. Which ones offer interesting job openings?

  3. What skills can you easily deploy on a daily basis? Which ones can you develop or are you developing?

You should think about your salary expectations at this stage

Don’t wait until you’re asked! This is true for PhDs, but also everyone, really! That said, PhDs transitioning to the private sector or non-research positions should take the time to carefully position themselves in terms of their salary expectations in the market they are targeting. It is a delicate operation; not to be overly ambitious and appear to lack humility, or to ask for an abnormally low wage and show a lack of confidence... asking for a salary significantly below the market may well question your skills or make the recruiter feel that you can't really take stock of what the workload really is...

Decoding job offers

This may seem like an obvious one, but take your time when reading job offers that interest you. They can provide some useful insights into what to emphasize in your CV (more on that later). Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

Is it where I want to work?

It is never possible to perfectly predict how someone will settle in with a new job. Nevertheless, it may be useful to visualize yourself into the position using the cues available on a given job offer. Every job description contains some information about the size of the company (is it an SME? Is it a large, multinational company?), its sector of activity and its status within its ecosystem. If applicable, the division or department (R&D, manufacturing, intellectual property & patents) where the candidate will be called upon to work, as well as the title of the immediate supervisor, may be displayed. This information is of great importance because applying is not just choosing a job: it is also choosing a work environment, colleagues, a boss.

Are the assignments all right with me?

Just as it is important to understand the company's profile, it is imperative to understand the job's missions; and to ensure that they meet not only your skills but also your professional aspirations.

Do I have the necessary skills? Should I learn new ones?

Skills expected of candidates are rarely listed in bullet points on job postings. However, they should be fairly clearly displayed in the job description and in the profile sections. Skills are the common language for candidates, employers and those who take care of recruitment on their behalf! Sure, pay attention to the required « hard » or technical skills (for example, techniques, software mastered or programming languages), but never underestimate the importance that can be given to transversal skills, aptitudes and interpersonal skills! Can you work independently? As a team? Do you like working under pressure? Do you have good listening skills? Impeccable written communication? With equal technical skills, it is obvious that your personal qualities and soft skills will make a difference. Be aware that some qualities will be positively appreciated for one position, while they could be an obstacle for another position! Be yourself, there is no right or wrong answer, think of skills as keywords that help you understand recruiters and make yourself understood by them; know how to identify them in the job offer and integrate them into your application and possibly in an interview.

No one-size-fits-all solution: adapt your CV!

If you are looking at a particular position, you should adapt your CV to highlight the adequacy between your profile and the requirements. Be careful! We are not talking about giving false or incomplete information. No one should be lying to get an interview. But rather targeting the skills and technologies sought and strategically positioning them (if we master them, of course!) on the CV. For example, a programmer who knows several programming languages could decide to adapt her CV to a job offer by highlighting the one requested for the position. She does not "make up" her mastery of JavaScript, but makes it more easily visible to the recruiters in charge of the position.

Do you have any other ideas for a well-prepared job search? Feel free to share them with us in the comments!

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