January is a great month to kick off a job hunt. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are three basic (but critical) components to a successful search.

Get your resume ready. The first thing human resource managers see when they look at prospective hires is their resume. With the advancement of technology, many HR departments have a software system that can track keywords in an applicant’s resume that lets them know they have what the company is looking for.

“You want to make sure you hit as many keywords as possible to get resume software systems to pick out your resume from the digital stack,” said Kris Gaskins, director of talent acquisition for Hedy Holmes Staffing Services, a boutique staffing agency based in Sacramento, California.

Gaskins encourages his clients to understand what an employer is looking for and use that job description in their resume or cover letter.

“Human resource managers spend an average of seven seconds looking at a resume, so applicants need to grab their attention with their career summaries. That lets recruiters or HR know to keep reading your resume,” Gaskins said.

Resume formats have changed in recent years, as employers become more specific about what they are looking for in candidates.


“The days of putting ‘objective’ at the top of your resume [are] outdated. People know your objective is to get a job, which is why you need to be precise in how you word your resume and what you put on it,” Gaskins said.

Gaskins encourages prospective job hunters to organize their resumes by utilizing bullet points and headers, to separate information and make it easier for hiring managers and human resource staff to follow.

Prepare for the interview. After job seekers send off their resumes and hear back from employers, the next task is usually getting through the interview process. That can be one of the most anxiety-inducing hurdles for some applicants, according to Gaskins.

“The anxiety people feel before an interview is completely psychological. You are in a new setting, you don’t know the interviewers personally, and you don’t know what they are going to ask you. There are a lot of things that feel unfamiliar, which is why I encourage people to practice interviewing. It helps quiet nerves and familiarizes people with the process,” he said.

Knowing your resume is crucial because it is the piece of paper that shows why an applicant is qualified for a job, what projects they have worked, the skills they offer a company, he said.

“During the interview, you can be more explanatory about details on your resume,” he said.


Knowing your resume is crucial because it shows why you are qualified for a job, what projects you have worked on, and the skills you offer a company, he said.

“Study the current happenings at the company you are applying for. Being able to ask pertinent questions will show the interviewer that you have done your homework and that you have a genuine interest in the company,” Gaskins said.

Finally, researching common questions asked during interviews provides applicants the opportunity to formulate answers ahead of time to questions like “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “Why should we hire you?”

Get out and network. Job seekers must make connections with employers, employees and recruiters.

When you know someone in a company or industry, it helps you get your foot in the door.

“The art of networking is about creating a good first impression and developing a connection with people that will remember you when a position opens up,” Gaskins said.

Networking helps prospective employees foster relationships with people on the inside who are willing to recommend them to hiring managers when positions become available.

In 2017, global career and talent development agency Right Management conducted a study of more than 46,000 newly employed individuals, asking them what strategies they utilized during their job search. Among the respondents, 46% said they attended career fairs and alumni mixers, which helped them land jobs.