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Beginner's Guide to the Job Search Process

If you're looking for your first full-time job, or if it's been years since your last job hunt, you're probably not quite sure what to expect on the journey from where you are now (wanting a new job) to where you need to be (getting hired).

The first thing you should understand is that, unfortunately, rejection is almost always a part of the job search process. Be prepared to go through several interviews and rejections before you get a job offer.

You might be lucky and hit the jackpot on your first or second try, but it's more likely you'll hear a lot of no's before you get a yes.

So, perhaps the most important job search advice is to never get your heart set on one job opportunity and give up looking for others. No matter how perfect a job seems, how many times an employer interviews you, or how certain you are that you'll get the job offer, keep looking and applying until you have a firm offer in hand.

With that in mind, here's a breakdown of the typical steps in the job search process, cut into four categories:

1. Applying for jobs
2. Preparing for interviews
3. Interviewing
4. Following up and getting hired

Accompanying each step are links to other Pongo resources that will give you more detail, and help you better understand what you need to know to succeed in your job search. 

1. APPLYING FOR JOBS Learn More ...
Write a resume and cover letter (we'll call these your documents). Good and Bad Resumes: Want to See the Difference?

Good vs. Bad: Make the Best of Your Cover Letter
Find a job posting that seems to fit your skills, education, and what you want to do. Look to job boards and company web sites for opportunities, as well as any online or personal networks. The Hazards of Resume Promiscuity

Who's Hiring? Your Hairdresser Knows
Edit your documents to emphasize how your qualifications match that specific job. Super-Easy Method for Writing a Targeted Resume
Submit your documents to the employer according to the instructions in the job posting. What Happens to My Resume After I Send It?
♦ If they think you have the right stuff for the job, they'll contact you to set up a phone interview or schedule an in-person interview. Phone Interview: Tips and Tricks
Research the employer on the web and find out everything you can about their business and the industries they compete in. Job Interview Basics:  Prepare Well to Present Well
Use salary sites such as or to find the typical salary range for similar positions in your area. The Interview: How to Answer the Salary Question
Plan your answers to the most common interview questions. Top 5 Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
Create a list of questions you plan to ask at the interview. Must-Ask Interview Questions
Practice talking about yourself briefly, covering such topics as education, accomplishments, skills, and traits that would matter to the employer. Going Up? Building Your Elevator Pitch
Plan what you'll wear and gather the items you'll take to the interview. Never Go to a Job Interview Without These 10 Things
3. INTERVIEWING Learn More ...
Arrive about 5 minutes early and be polite to everyone you meet. How to Recover Quickly from an Interview Mistake
Smile, make eye contact, and shake hands when you meet your interviewer(s). Poll: Do Hiring Managers Care About a Firm Handshake?
Answer each question honestly; try to stay positive and confident. 5 Things You Should Never Reveal in a Job Interview
Ask questions about the job and the company to show that you researched the business and are interested in the position. 3 Ways to Get the Hiring Manager to Like You
Ask for business cards so you can follow up if you don't hear from them within the timeframe they indicated. Follow-Up Calls: Always? Or Never?
Send a thank-you email to your interviewer(s) within 24 hours of the interview. The Art of the Follow-Up Letter
Wait a day or two past the time they said they'd get back in touch, then contact them to ask about the status of your candidacy. Smart or Stalker-esque? The Art of Following Up
♦ If they called you in for a second (or third) interview, treat it as seriously as you did the first one, because you'll likely be meeting different people. 4 F-Words to Help You Prepare for a Second Interview
♦ If you receive a job offer that you want to accept, be sure you and the employer are clear on the salary, start date, and other details. What You Need to Know Before You Sign a Job Offer

You may wind up repeating these steps several times before you land a job. In fact, plan on it. Once you start your new job, you can relax and put job searching on the back burner for a little while—but don't let it simmer too long. Add your new job to your resume, and always keep your documents up to date with your latest accomplishments, honors, and promotions. There are no guarantees that you'll stay in one job for a long time, and a new opportunity may come your way when you least expect it. So, always be prepared!

The Basics of an Effective Job Search
Resume Writing Basics: Building Blocks of a Good Resume
Cover Letter Basics: 5 Steps to a Top-Notch Letter
Step-by-Step Job Interview Preparation
The Job Search Follow-Up Guide You Can't Live Without

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