20 Quick Job Search Tips for 2020

As we enter the new year, many people reading this will contemplate a job search.  The below 20 job search tips were prepared by Dan Binstock, a partner at the attorney search firm Garrison & Sisson and also President of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC).  

1. Don’t make a move just for money.  Unless it’s a lot more money and you’re reasonably confident you’ll be just — or close to — as happy.  You cannot put a price on working with good people.

2. If you’re not happy, do everything you possibly can to improve your current situation before considering a new employer, unless a new employer is necessary for your professional growth, happiness, or financial situation.  

3. Don’t worry about having a two-page resume if it’s required to fully explain your experience.  Just make sure it’s not one page with just a few sentences on the second page (in which case you can probably fit it onto one page by adjusting margins, putting your address on one line, etc.).    

4. Garamond is the best font for resumes (in my opinion).

5. If your resume has some puzzling formatting issues and you are using Microsoft Word, hit “Shift+F1” to reveal the formatting pane, which can help identify the problems.  

6. Proofread your resume from the end to the beginning.  Pretend you are an editor and look for consistency with periods/no periods, bold font, italics, and usage of underlining.  Then proofread it again for content.  Then proofread it again for both.

7. Always print out your resume before proofreading it.  Never proofread on a screen.

8. Never send your resume in Word format – PDF always.  Why?  Word often doesn’t convert well when sent via email, and the formatting can get messed up.  Don’t risk it.

9. Do not put dates or descriptors in the file name of your resume.  BAD:  “Resume – J. Smith – 1-6-2020 corporate version”. GOOD: “Resume – J. Smith”.  

10. Don’t add a cover letter attachment.  Put your cover letter in the body of the email, unless explicitly instructed otherwise. 

11. In your cover letter, do not regurgitate what’s in your resume.  Your cover letter should explain why you are interested in the particular position and help introduce your narrative for seeking a position.  Depending on the audience, you may want to wait until an interview to disclose more detail on your reasons for considering a move.  But if you are in good standing/receive strong reviews, mention this as well.  Remember, people often assume the worse unless told otherwise.  

12. If you are moving to a new city, explain in your cover letter your reasons for considering the new city and existing connections (e.g., family, friends, how often you visit, etc.).  Also, if you plan to settle down in the new city for more than a relatively short period, explain that as well.    

13. Do not end your cover letter with “I look forward to meeting you.”  That’s too presumptuous.  Instead, say: “If you think my background and experience may be a fit, I would welcome the opportunity to arrange a meeting and learn more.”  

14. Never send your resume/cover letter or job related correspondence from your work email.  Never.  Even if your employer knows you are looking for a new job.  

15. If your interview is via phone, stand up while speaking.  Your voice will sound brighter and more alive.

16. Fridays are great days to interview.  Monday mornings are the worst. When you arrive at an interview, do not check-in 15 minutes early.  Arriving too early will result in eye-rolls from your first interviewer.  Instead, check-in with the receptionist (for the law firm/company, as opposed to the building receptionist) five minutes before your interview time.  This shows you are on time but respects the fact that your first interviewer needs to complete what he/she was working on before your interview.   

17. Always be prepared to explain why you are looking to leave your current position.  If you are doing well and are seeking a new position purely on your own volition, make this known.  

18. Even if you think you are great at interviewing, rehearse your responses to possible questions (“Why are you considering a move?  Why are you interested in us?) with somebody else. At first, your responses will probably be far from ideal.  That’s good. It will scare you into preparing more.  It’s important to be yourself/organic but do not try to “wing it.” 

19. Should you send a thank-you note?  There’s no easy answer.  Some people feel strongly that they are an essential sign of good manners, while some don’t view them as necessary.  However, countless people have been rejected due to thank-you notes with typos or formatting issues.  Also, if you choose to write one, remember that people often share them so they should be personalized.  Which increases the chances of inadvertent typos. Which is why many people don’t write them. But if you do, print them out and proofread them before sending. 

20. When giving notice, be careful of counter-offers.  Sometimes a counter-offer makes sense if you believe your current employer was truly unaware of your concerns and could not have fixed them before your providing notice.  However, If the reasons that encouraged you to consider a new opportunity will not be remediated with a very tangible plan, odds are you will leave within the next year.  And you’ll be reading this same article again.

Bonus Tip:  Once you start at a new employer, be aware of confirmation bias.  How does this play out? If your first piece of work is not up to par and somebody is left with a negative first impression, it’s much harder to change that person’s mind over time.  As such, it’s critically important to make sure you are extra careful in the beginning about typos, etc.

Best wishes for a successful 2020.

Dan Binstock  | bio |
Partner | Garrison & Sisson, Inc.
1627 I Street, NW, Suite 1230
Washington, DC 20006
d: (202) 559-0472 | m: (202) 664-9300

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