Careers: Articles - Job-Search King of the Hill—Tough Career Lessons Learned on the Playground

When you were a child, did you ever play a game called “king of the hill?� In my childhood neighborhood we had a low sand hill just right for playing king of the hill. A dozen of us would rush to the hill to scramble and push our way to the top. The hill only allowed one person on top—the king, the champ.

The competition of a job search is much like playing king of the hill. Instead of a hill, it’s a job opening. But the rules of the game are about the same—one hill, lots of players and only one winner. Only now, the stakes are much higher.

In today’s competitive job market, how does one become Job-Search King of the Hill? The answer—exercise better job search skills.

The four essential job search skills are:
1) Effective resume and cover letter writing
2) Uncovering job leads
3) Interview preparation
4) Salary negotiation

1) Effective resume and cover letter writing

Your cover letter and resume are your first contact with potential employers. Make the most of the opportunity by written communication that sets you apart from the crowd. Here is a hint that’s guaranteed to make you stand out. Focus your resume on accomplishments rather than responsibilities. For every accomplishment ask yourself, “how was this significant? How did this affect my employer’s bottom line?� Your resume will catch attention no matter the level of competition because you’ve answered the reader’s question, “what can this candidate do for my company?�

2) Uncovering job leads

Before your resume can do any good at all, you’ve got to find job leads. This is sometimes the trickiest part of the job search process because a good percentage of job opportunities are found in the hidden job market—job leads that aren’t yet public knowledge. Think about this for a moment, what’s more competitive, jobs that are posted for the whole world to see or jobs openings that haven’t hit the want ads or online job boards? Which would you rather interview for?

There are several ways of uncovering job leads in the hidden job market. One of the most efficient is simply networking with persons within your sphere of influence. Just ask around. Always ask “who do you know that might know of a position that matches my qualifications?�

Another highly effective, inexpensive method of uncovering leads is through targeted email distribution of your resume. There are many reputable services online that allow you to target your distribution by industry, company size and geography. One caution—avoid resume blasting services. Blasting means your resume ends up everywhere but where you really want it: with employers most likely to have positions of interest to you.

3) Interview preparation

Once your resume has passed the screener’s desk and you’re invited for an interview, keep your competitive edge with pre-interview preparation. There are many outstanding interview prep books out there, but my all-time favorite is 101 Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions by Ron Fry. It’s just recently been re-released and available in most book stores. A couple of hours with this book and you’ll be better prepared than most job seekers.

4) Salary negotiation

You’ve made it through the interviews with flying colors and you’ve just received the phone call—they want you to extend an offer. Don’t miss the opportunity to give yourself a nice raise. Go in prepared to negotiate for a better starting salary.

First, dollarize your worth. Demonstrate through quantifiable accomplishments that you are a high return on investment. Second, make sure you have the regional statistics for the salary range. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good source for that information. You can find them at Third, always let them be the first to state a salary or range. Don’t inadvertently walk away from several thousand dollars by answering their question, “So what would it take to get you to come on board?� They might have a higher number in mind. And last, your bargaining power is the greatest if you have other offers on the table. Don’t turn down interviews with companies you’re not interested in. Those could turn into offers that increase your desirability as a candidate and ability to command the top of the salary range for the position you really want.

Once you’ve earned you position as “King of the Hill�, you’ll be less concerned with job security knowing the only real job security lies within your own ability to compete within the job market.

If you make it part of your job-search priorities to stay connected with people on a regular basis, you’ll find the days of discouragement are fewer while the potential career opportunities multiply.

Deborah Walker, CCMC
Resume Writer ~ Career Coach
You’ll find more of Ms. Walker’s career and job-search articles at
Email her at
Phone: 888-828-0814



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