The Job Lead Funnel
By Robert Pearson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

In today's competitive job market, job seekers can't afford to let any opportunity slip by.

One of the mistakes job seekers frequently make is to work on one promising job lead at a time. This not only extends the length of the job search, but often leads to disappointing setbacks when opportunities do not pan out.

There are no "sure things" when it comes to conducting your job search. In the recruiting industry, I have seen countless candidates put their searches on hold while they anticipate an offer, only to have the deal fall through. In fact, it is common practice for companies to enter into final negotiations with two or more final candidates.

Many times, the funding for a position is cut, or someone in an important position in the company submits a last-minute candidate. Even when you are in the final negotiating stage, the deal can turn sour, and the offer can be withdrawn. Prior to your first day on the job, you need to keep working all possible options. Take control of your job search by continuing to network and develop opportunities.

Don't get emotionally attached to a single opportunity. Keep working on other leads and opportunities until the offer is accepted and you actually start in your new role. Your negotiating position is stronger if you have multiple offers or potential offers to leverage.

Job seekers' most common complaint is about time management. It is easy to get diverted by other day-to-day tasks and others' demands. The more you delay your total commitment to your search, the longer it will take to land a job.

The most successful job seekers are those who make their search a full-time job. Landing your next position should be your business, not a hobby. Write a plan for your business, including financial projections. Review this plan regularly. By using a dedicated and structured approach, you can make sure you keep leads and opportunities in the pipeline. Prepare to market yourself, and set daily and weekly goals for meetings, follow-up and phone calls.

Your network is the main source of new leads and information. Quality positions posted on public boards are the exception rather than the norm in today's job market. Professional recruiters account for only 10 percent of jobs filled. You have to tap into the "private" job market: those opportunities yet to go public.

Schedule meetings for informational interviews with industry-leading individuals and target companies. Circulate your target list to everyone in your network to get their help in gathering information or making connections. Continue to expand your professional contacts through networking events, and strive to get two to three new leads from each person you meet.

Most importantly, remember that you have one shot with each contact. Get your story straight. Be prepared to offer a clear vision of - and a compelling reason for - your direction. It is often the best-prepared candidate who gets the offer, rather than the best-qualified.

Above all, remember that networking never really stops. It is a career-long process, whether or not you are working. As my football coach used to say, "Always keep your head in the game."