Career Coach and Job Search Tips

You’ve asked, so we’ve answered. We’re actually not Career Coaches; we work to attract people to the West Michigan region. But when you’ve been around HR professionals as long as we have, you pick up a few hints. So we’re sharing them with you.

This is a data dump of sorts, a long list of tips covering a wide range topics. Some of the information below might seem very elementary or minute, but if it’s listed here, it’s because we’ve heard a horror story from a recruiter, so it bears repeating.

Resume Tips

  • Be sure to include current contact information
  • Free of spelling and grammatical errors
  • Clear and concise wording
  • Accurately state your skills and experience
  • Use action words to start sentences. Here’s a list of 185 great action words.
  • If using a chronological format resume, list your most recent experience first
  • Tailor for each job you apply to

Job Search

Cast a wide net and approach your job search from many angles. There’s no right way or right place to find a job. Below is a list of useful job search sites. Sign up for job alerts and be sure to drop your resume in each online database.

Non-Profit Jobs

Applying for Jobs

  • When searching for jobs, always read the directions closely and follow the outlined process.
  • Take your time filling out each application, make it specific to the company
  • Free of spelling and grammatical errors
  • When asked to describe your skills on an application, always write it out, don’t write “see attached resume

Interview Tips

  • Keep a record (digital or printed) for each company with a list of positions you applied for and why you applied. It will help you organize your thoughts and answer questions when you get a phone call or attend an in-person interview.
  • Practice responses to typical interview questions. Be prepared to answer questions using the STAR method—situation, task, action, result. More info on the STAR Method.
  • Arrive 5 – 10 minutes early for an interview. If you get there earlier than that, wait in your car or in the lobby of the building before going to the office suite. You don’t want to spend more than 10 minutes waiting awkwardly in the lobby.
  • Observe your surroundings when you arrive (avoid killing time on your phone), and interact with the receptionist/office manager if there is one. Sometimes interviewers ask receptionists their first impressions, so always be polite and engaging.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of good eye contact and a quality handshake.
  • Bring printed copies of your resume to the interview and something to write notes on. It will help when you follow up.
  • Always have questions prepared to ask during the interview. If all of your questions are answered during the course of the interview, make sure you have a couple of others prepared. At the end of an interview when the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you never want to say you don’t have any. It shows a lack of interest or natural curiosity. When in doubt, ask the interview a career related question about themselves because people always like to talk about themselves. Like “what is your career background?” or “can you tell me about your career journey that led you to this company?” or “what do you like about working here?”
  • Always ask the question “what does the [hiring] process look like from here?” or “what should I expect next?” This will help you gauge the timeline and assist you with follow up. See below.
  • Practice, practice, practice. If you feel prepared, you’ll feel confident.

Dress for Success

  • Research the company and learn about their culture. This will tell you a lot about their dress code and what they expect to see from job applicants. Not all job interviews require a suit.
  • No matter what you wear, be neat, unwrinkled, and confident in what you wear. First impressions matter.
  • There are a lot of very minute tips when it comes to dress and we could spend all day on it. Get more info here.

Follow Up


  • Gauge the level of interaction. If you met someone quickly at a networking event, send an email or a personal note on LinkedIn. If you spend 30 minutes with someone for a coffee or informational interview, send a very nice email or hand written note.


  • Similar to a networking event, gauge your level of interaction. If you have a phone interview and you know an in-person interview is coming, you don’t want to use the impact of the handwritten note on the phone interview. Send a nice email after the phone interview and the handwritten note after the in-person interview to help seal the deal.
  • Time is of the essence, so don’t delay in sending the note, especially if by snail mail. As long as the application and interview process might seem to you, hiring decisions might be happening immediately after an interview if you’re the last candidate on the docket.
  • Sincere thanks expressed in any way is appreciated by recruiters. You might be thinking that as common as the “written thank you note” tip is, that recruiters get personal notes all the time. They don’t!


  • Before you start “networking” with anyone, identify what you’re looking for, practice your elevator speech, and tell your story. That way, when people in your circle mention you, they are telling the right story. Similarly, when you meet new people, you’ll be prepared with your message.
  • If you seeking a new job, start by notifying the circle you already have: friends, parents’ friends, parents’ of your child’s friends, people you worship with, and neighbors.
  • There are many networking groups in the West Michigan region. Research local groups and pick ones that you feel will help the most. Quality is better than quantity. Going to the “big event of the year” for a local group isn’t great if you don’t get any connections out of it. Focus on attending the events where you can make connections, especially if there’s a registration fee to attend. Those add up!
  • When you attend a networking event, remember it’s not about the food, it’s about the connections. Avoid the awkward balancing of plates and focus on the handshakes and interactions instead.
  • Open networking events can be daunting with so many people. Set a goal and identify how many people you want to talk to and make a quality connection with.
  • Bring business cards, even if you’re not currently employed. It’s the easiest way to pass along your contact information. When in doubt, always try to get contact info from new acquaintances so you can be pro-active about follow up, rather than waiting around for them to contact you.
  • Know when to end conversations. Not every person you talk to can help you and people might have their own intentions at networking events. Read the non-verbal signs and know when it’s time to wrap up the conversation and move on.
  • A box of business cards won’t help you get the job. So be sure to follow up on those business cards and start relationships. That’s how you find a job.
  • Not all networking is face to face. You can leverage social media to find a job. Step 1 is always cleaning up your profiles, but go beyond being a social media hermit and locking down the privacy on your pages. Follow pages of companies you’d like to work for, they often post their jobs there first. If there’s a company you really like, interact with them on social media—if it’s a small company, the marketing coordinator monitoring the page will likely recognize you name if you apply to the company.
  • Be strategic about where you put your time into networking. Put your time into groups or events that are related to what you want to be doing. Consider non-traditional forms of networking as well. It’s not always associations and events (although those are good places to start). If you’re in the non-profit sector, try volunteering with different organizations that you’re interested in. Many times non-profits look at who is already engaged with them when sourcing applications.