Find a Job

This Find a Job section will help you understand the strategies you need to find the right job. It will describe each strategy. It will help you organize your job search so that you can be successful. Here’s where you'll apply what you learned in your assessments and career exploration.

Why should you follow job search strategies?
The current job market can be tough. But people find jobs all of the time. The people who find jobs understand what employers look for when they hire. Employers expect that job seekers are good at these job search practices. If you are serious about finding a job that fits you, follow these strategies.

What are the job search strategies that you need to know?

They include:

Get Started and Get Help

Sometimes people look at the job ads in newspapers. They look at the wages and think “I could do that!” However, employers hire people who have the right skills and experience. And they hire people who can show they are good workers. Use the Succeed in the Workplace tips to help you be a good employee.

Know your skills and interests.
There are many ways to use your skills and interests in your work. If you don’t know your skills and interests, go to Assess Yourself.

Target your job search.
Most people can do several types of jobs. Employers want to know why you would be a good worker for their job. Spend some time learning about the skills needed for the types of jobs you can do. Keep track using the Job Search Target worksheet (pdf).

If you don’t know what occupations you want to do, look at the Explore Careers section. Also, your library will have information about occupations.

Get Job Search Help

Services can include: 

Go to the Online and Local Resources for additional resources.

Job search can be stressful. Find resources in Take Care of Yourself.

Learn about the Hiring Process

Each employer has his or her hiring process. But here are four common steps. It is important for every job seeker to do well at each step.

Here is a summary of the typical hiring steps

1. The employer looks for the right people for their job opening.
  • Many start by looking at their own employees. They may ask for referrals from employees and others they know. This is called networking.
  • Employers might advertise the job. They may advertise on websites or online job boards.
  • Employers may work with a recruiter or agency. They may go to job fairs.
  • Employers also ask applicants to send resumes and cover letters to the company. They may ask them to fill out an application.
2. The employer screens the applications.

Often times, there are many people who apply for one job. The employer removes the ones who aren't a good match. People may not have the right skills or experience. Or they don't describe their skills well.

Then, the employer picks the applicants that match the job. They may call candidates on the phone to ask them questions. Or they have people come in for an interview.

3. The employer sets up interviews with people who seem to fit their needs.

At the interview, the employer asks each applicant about his or her skills and background. Employers are also looking for people who will fit with their company. They look for things like a "can do" attitude. They look for people who can get along with others. They also want people who like to learn and work hard.

The job seeker is also interviewing the employer. The job seeker wants to make sure that this job and the company is a good fit.

4. The employer makes an offer to a selected applicant.
The employer chooses one person to hire. Then it is time to discuss the job and its benefits. The employer and job candidate discuss the salary, benefits, schedule and other things. This is called negotiation. This agreement has to benefit both parties. A job seeker can walk away from an offer if it isn't good for him or her.

Market Yourself

"Market yourself" means to show yourself in the best light to employers. It is very important that you can show that you are a good fit for a job. The person who gets a job may not be the most skilled. They may have been good at promoting themselves. Here are some tips to help you market yourself.

Create your "elevator speech." 
People who hire are very busy. So are people who can help you find a job. You’ll be more effective if you can explain your job search targets. An elevator speech is a good tool to use.

Directions: Think about being in an elevator with a potential employer. You have one minute to talk about yourself. You want this person to know your job target and why you’re a good fit. Practice your speech with people who can give you feedback. When they hear your elevator speech, do they understand what kind of job you’re looking for? Do they understand why you’d be good at it?

Examples of elevator speeches:

Prepare your own Elevator Speech (pdf).

What to Put in Your Portfolio

Be prepared and organized.

  • Track the activities you do for your job search. Use the Job Search Checklist (pdf) or JibberJobber to help.
  • Make a portfolio. A portfolio of your work can show employers your accomplishments. You may include samples of work and school projects. You can put these samples in a binder. Some people like to put their samples online. You can bring your portfolio to job interviews.  
What to Put in Your Portfolio
If you are a: You could include:
  • Photographs of your work
Chef or baker
  • Photographs of food or meals you've made
  • Recipes you created
  • Letters of recommendation from past bosses
Computer programmer or multimedia specialist
  • Screenshots of your programs
  • Printout of the computer code you wrote
  • Letters of recommendation from past bosses
Dancer, actor, or musician
  • Video of your performances
  • Audio recordings of your work
Fashion designer or tailor
  • Pictures of the clothing you produced
  • Wear your own creations on the job interview
Office support staff
  • Brochures for projects you helped plan
  • Reports
  • Newsletters you organized
  • Spreadsheets
  • Other examples of work that you completed
  • Letters of recommendation from past bosses
Writer or journalist
  • Copies of published articles
  • Printouts of your writing from websites
  • Video of your news stories

Build Your Network

Did you know that most job openings are not advertised? It's true — most employers have enough applicants without advertising. They often prefer to find employees from people who they trust. This network of referrals is the "hidden job market."

You can tap into this network by getting to know people who can help you. Don’t ask them for a job. Ask them for information.

Identify all of the people in Your Network (pdf).

Tips for Building Your Network
Ask for information.
  • You can call people who know about or do a job that interests you. Ask for an informational interview. This is not the same as a job interview.
  • You can ask about the occupation. You can also ask about industries or employers.
  • You ask about what you want to know.
  • Be polite. Don’t be too pushy or you may turn people off.
Be prepared to talk about yourself.
  • Make sure you’re clear about your job skills and background for your job target (pdf).
  • Have your resume ready.
Follow good networking habits.
  • Networking is like making friends. It's about building relationships.
  • Think about ways to give something back to those who have helped you.
Find people in your job target.
  • Start with friends, family members, past coworkers, and neighbors. They may know someone in your target job.
  • Tell them about your career goals (pdf).
Send thank-you notes when people are helpful to you.
  • Always say thank you for any information or job leads you get.
Find a mentor.
  • This is a person who knows about the occupation you are interested in.
  • Get feedback on your job search ideas and questions.
  • Ask to shadow someone on the job.
Look into professional groups.
  • See if your job target has a professional group. Many members are eager to help job seekers. They may know employers with job openings.
Keep your key contacts informed about your efforts in the job search.
  • Your key contacts want to help you.

Connect with People Online

One way to meet contacts using the Internet is through “social networking” websites. You can use these websites for your job search.

If you use them, think about your goals. Make sure what you write on these sites is well written. Get feedback about what you have posted. Use your Elevator Speech (pdf).  People sometimes post their resume on these sites. 

Be careful.

  • Never list your address, phone number, or bank accounts. Don’t give anyone your social security number.
  • Be positive. Don’t argue with people online. Employers may see this post.
  • Scammers may try to sell you training or job search assistance that should be free.
Common Social Networking Websites
  • Many professionals use LinkedIn. They connect with others in their career field. They learn about events and trends.
  • LinkedIn can be used to research employers.
  • To start, you create your profile. This lists your skills, career goals, and past jobs.
  • Connect with people you know. You can ask them to post references for you. You can find others in your field by seeing the contacts from people you know. You can ask to add them to your “connections.”
  • You can also search for groups with your career interests. These groups update information often. You can ask questions and get job leads from these groups.
  • Twitter sends very short messages to many people at one time.
  • You can use it to update "followers" on your career or find job leads.
  • Employers use it to tell people about job openings. They also use it to find out more about applicants.
  • Job seekers post their basic information. They may link to their resumes or blogs. 
  • Facebook is a place to connect with your friends and people they know. You make connections with people who share your interests.
  • You can search for people who work at employers you’d like to learn about. You can ask to connect with them about your job search.

Connect with People In-Person

Following is a listing of organizations that host networking events.

Career Development Center
Pennsylvania Professional Employment Network (PAPEN)
Priority Two
The Seekers

Here is a listing of local and national sites that host job fairs in Pennsylvania.

Career Fairs
Career Development Center
Diversity Job Fairs
Coast to Coast Career Fairs
Employment Guide
National Career Fairs


Research and Contact Employers

Remember that most jobs are not listed anywhere. Find these leads by researching your Job Search Target (pdf). You can research occupations, industries, and companies in several ways:

Research occupations, industries, and companies (pdf)
Think about your job search target and do your research. Your library or career coach may also be able to help you to do this task.

Research each employer you are interested in
You can look at the company’s website for this information Or your librarian may be able to help you.

Contacting Employers
Once you know a bit about your target employers, you can call them. Use your occupation, industry, and company research for this call . If you feel like you have a good connection with the employer, offer to send a cover letter and resume.  

Tips for Calling Employers
Write down what you want to say. Use an Employer Contact Script (pdf). This is important if you are not used to calling employers. Don't read your script; your conversation should be natural.
Smile while you are talking on the phone. It makes your voice sound cheerful and relaxed.
Your outgoing voicemail message should not have music or jokes on it. Just say your name and ask the caller to leave a message.
Tell your roommates and family that employers will be calling. Ask them to take clear messages and give them to you right away.
Call back all employers who call you, even if you no longer want the job.
Return all phone calls within 24 hours.
Tips for E-Mailing Employers
Use a simple e-mail address with your name or initials for your job search. Don't use inappropriate nicknames or jokes like ""
Start the e-mail with something of interest to the reader. Let them know right away why you are writing and how you can help their business. Write the e-mail the same way you would a letter. Don't use online acronyms (IMHO, LOL, etc.).
Have a subject line that is clear and interesting.
At the end of your message, tell the employer you plan to follow-up. Give them another way to contact you such as your phone number. If you sent the e-mail without them knowing, ask if they want you to keep in touch with them in another way.
Check for the correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
If the employer does not contact you, and you really want an interview, call them.

Find Job Openings

Employers look favorably on job seekers who know about them. They also like job seekers who know why they are a good fit. Think about the type of job you really want and go after it.

Find Advertised Jobs
General Craigslist: Pittsburgh
  Career One-Stop
  Imagine Pittsburgh
  Career Builder
  Simply Hired
  Job Gateway
  PA CareerLink
  Pittsburgh Jobs
  Pittsburgh Business Times
  Beyond: Pittsburgh
  Monster: Pittsburgh
  Pittsburgh Employment Guide
  Tribune Review Jobs
  Post-Gazette Jobs
  Pittsburgh Employment Services
Non Profit Idealist
  Nonprofit Talent
Government PA State Civil Service
  Federal Jobs
  US Dept of Veteran Affairs
Self-Employment US Small Business Administration
  Score: Pittsburgh
  Duquesne University: Small Bus Development Center
  University of Pittsburgh: Small Bus Development Center
  University of Pittsburgh: Katz Bus Development Center
Work from Home FlexJobs
Niche Dice: IT
  AARP: Job Hunting
  Roadtechs: engineers, technicians and skilled trades
  Pittsburgh Technology Council
  PA Educator
  Power of Pittsburgh (energy industry)
  Marcellus Shale Coalition
  Higher Ed Jobs


Apply for Jobs

Employers ask to get job seekers' information in several ways. Pay close attention to what the employer wants from job applicants. Make sure you send them the documents they want. There are common documents to apply for jobs. Take a closer look at Job Applications, Resumes, and Cover Letters.

Job Applications
Employers use a form to learn about each job seeker. This form is called an application. Employers use applications to compare the job seekers to see who are the best matches for the jobs. Use words from the job description on your application, if they fit.

Job Application Tips
Make a rough draft. Get your references now. Get a copy of an application (pdf). Fill in all of the fields. Make sure you know all of your past employers and dates you worked. You’ll also need addresses and phone numbers of past employers. Get feedback on how you answer each question. Use your rough draft to fill in all of your "real" applications.
Follow the directions. Be honest. Read the entire application before you start it. Pay close attention to what they ask you. Do not write in sections where they say “do not write below this line. ” Also do not write where they say “for office use only.”
Fill out applications neatly and completely. Answer all of the questions. If one doesn’t apply to you, you can use “n/a”. This means “not applicable.” This shows the employer that you did not overlook anything. Do not abbreviate.
Always list your "position desired." This is your job search target or the title from a job lead.
Give a range for your salary. Employer may use this question to screen out applicants. Use range or say “negotiable.” This leaves you room to negotiate a higher wage.
Give positive reasons for leaving jobs. Choose your words carefully with this question. Don't say "Fired," "Quit," or "Illness." Instead think about these reasons. “Quit for a better job.” “Left to work closer to home." “Left for a career change.” “Quit to move to a new area.” “Quit to attend school.”

Write Good Resumes

A resume is a communication tool job seekers use to get interviews. Resumes are not a list of what you did. They list what you can do on the job. Again, use your Occupational Research (pdf).

List your skills and experience that employers want. When describing work experience on your resume, start with an action verb. Do not say “responsible for …”

Resume Formats
A chronological resume lists your work history starting with the most recent. This is the most common type of resume. It is used by people who are staying in the same career pathway. 
A functional resume groups your skills and experience by skill areas. These skill areas are called “functions.” It is often used by people who have acquired skills outside of their work history. 
A combination resume joins the other two formats. It groups your skills by function and it lists a short work history. It is often used by people who are changing careers. 
What Features to Include on Your Resume
Some people start their resumes with a career objective. It is your target occupation or industry. Your resume can use a career objective or a summary statement. 
A summary statement shows why you are a good fit for your target. You can highlight your skills and traits that make you successful. Show why you would be a good fit for the company.
Contact information tells the employer how to reach you. It is very important for setting up interviews. Most people list their address, phone number, and e-mail.
Education lists your degrees and classes. Include work licenses and certifications.
Your work experience describes where you worked. It also describes your skills and accomplishments.

Online Resume Writing Resources

Create Cover Letters

A cover letter is a letter that you send with a resume. A resume is focused on an occupation. The cover letter is for a specific position and can be more personal. Cover letters are targeted to a job lead or employer.

You can use a cover letter sample to get started. Make sure each cover letter you send is different.

Parts of a Cover Letter
Heading and greeting
Every cover letter needs the date. List your name and how to contact you. Address the letter to a specific person.
Opening and introduction
Explain who you are and why you are writing. Tell them how you found out about the position.
Sell yourself. Reveal why you are a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why you have chosen the employer. 
Assertive closing
Be positive. Tell them that you will contact them.


When you apply for jobs, you will likely be asked for references. References are people who can talk about your skills and work history. Choose your references carefully. You want to list about 3 people who will say good things about you.
Here are some rules about getting and listing references.

  1. If possible, talk to your supervisor before you leave a job and ask if he/she will give you a reference. The best possible reference is a recent supervisor. If you don’t have a recent reference you can use past supervisors, coworkers, supervisees, volunteer managers, teachers, etc. Other nonstandard but acceptable reference providers: current/former clients, academic counselors, business partners, funders, and colleagues at another company/agency. If you have a job and don’t want your current employer to know that you are looking for a new one, ask a colleague that you can trust. 
  2. References come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In order from best to worst, they are:
  1. Always tell your reference that you are listing them. Before you list any person as a reference, ask for permission. Make sure they have an updated copy of your resume, and a good idea of what kind of jobs you are applying for, and when you are scheduled to interview, so they can be prepared to answer questions well.
  2. Keeping in touch with your references periodically also helps in maintaining up to date contact information. Be sure to connect with them via LinkedIn.
  3. Bring a copy of your references to the interview. Your reference list should be separate from your resume and make sure that you have a copy that you can provide upon request.

 Cover Letter & References Resources

Know How to Interview

Your resume and cover letter grabbed the attention of the employer and you have been asked to come in for an interview. Are you prepared to turn those interviews into job offers?

Interview Tips
Prepare for an Interview
  • The day before your interview, think about what types of questions the employer might ask you and prepare answers you can give in less than 2 minutes.
  • Plan your interview attire ahead of time. Map out the location and estimate travel. This will help you get organized and be less stressed the day of the interview.
  • On the day of the interview:
    • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. You might need to fill out paperwork before the interview.
    • Go by yourself. If a friend or relative drives you, have them wait in the car.
    • Wear an outfit that is professional looking. It should fit the type of job for which you are interviewing.
    • Be cautious of wearing cologne/perfume in case your interviewer has allergies.
What to Bring to an Interview
  • Extra copies of your resume, your reference list, and if necessary a portfolio or examples of your work.
  • Papers needed to complete your application. This includes copies of work licenses, your driving record (if required), and your social security or immigration cards.
  • Questions for you to ask during the interview.  
During the Interview
  • Display confidence. Shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Let the interviewer start the conversation.
  • Listen carefully. Give honest, direct answers.
  • Accept all questions with a smile, even the hard ones. Take your time when answering the hard questions.
  • Think about your answers in your head before you talk. Make sure you stay on topic when responding to a question. If you don't understand a question, ask to hear it again or for it to be reworded. You don't have to rush, but you don't want to appear indecisive. 

Interview Preparation Activities

Do these activities before every interview – if possible, go over the questions and answers with a friend (at the very least in the mirror!), and practice your answers until they sound polished and confident (but not rehearsed!).

Practice Activities

Make a list of the reasons why You are the perfect person for the job.
These are the key facts from your experience, skills, accomplishments and/or personality that make you a good match for the job. Try to work one of them into every answer you give – and if at the end of the interview you realize one or more of them hasn’t come up, bring it up!

Anticipate questions they will ask you during the interview, and practice your answers.
Include both standard and ‘situational’ questions. Your answers should be brief, complete, and thoughtful.

Make a list of questions to ask them about the job or company.
Show that you’re interested! Pretend you’re a reporter and you’re going to write a story about the company and/or job – what would you want to know? Use the Sample Questions on the next page to start your list.

Consider things to avoid doing/saying during the interview.
What mistakes have you made in past interviews? What bad habits do you want to avoid displaying, or issues you want to avoid disclosing?

Online Interviewing Resources

Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions
(adapted from

Behavioral questions try to get at how you responded in specific situations, for example: ‘Tell me about a time where you had to resolve a customer complaint.’ The best way to prepare for behavioral questions is to have examples of experiences ready, but try to choose experiences that you made the best of or -- better yet, those that had positive outcomes.

Here's a good way to prepare for behavior-based interviews:

 Develop your own STAR Accomplishment using the STAR Worksheet (pdf).

Situation or
Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you
What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

Sample Questions to Ask the Employer During the Interview
Below is a list of questions you may consider asking during your interview. If you already know the answer to the question; either from the job description, information provided during the interview, or from your research of the company online; do NOT ask the question. If you still need clarification about anything that can be found while researching the company, be clear about where you found the information and follow it up with the question.


Common mistakes made during the interview that significantly reduce your chances of being offered the position
Application form or resume is incomplete or sloppy Nervousness or lack of confidence and poise
Arriving late for the interview No genuine interest in the company or job or overemphasis on money
Didn’t ask questions about the job Overly aggressive behavior
Failure to express appreciation for interviewer’s time Poor personal appearance
Lack of interest and enthusiasm Responding vaguely to questions
Lack of maturity Unwillingness to accept entry-level position
Lack of planning for career; no purpose and no goals Answering your cell phone while in the office
Negative attitude about past employers Being impolite to anybody at the employer’s site or office

Follow-up After the Interview.

The job interview is not over when you leave the meeting. You have one more chance to impress the employer. Follow up the interview with a thank-you letter or email.

Send a thank-you letter or note (pdf) to each person who interviewed you. Your letter should cover these main points:

If you told the interviewers that you would give them added information, make sure that you do. Keep track of when you said you would contact this employer to find out if you were hired. Don't forget to make that contact.

Be sure to check the grammar, spelling, word use and punctuation before sending the thank you letter or email. If you choose to write your letter by hand, check with a friend to verify that your handwriting is legible.

Negotiate a Job Offer

Negotiating your salary is a key part of the job search. Wait until after you get a job offer to talk about pay and benefits. Negotiating is a two-way street. Use the tips below that work for you. There are some negotiating tips that will help you make good decisions.

Negotiating Tips
Think about the offer
  • Know what salary you can expect for the occupation.
  • Think about your pay needs based on your personal budget.
  • Try to find out what the company pays before the interview. Review salary resources online, or reach out to networking contacts. Salary; Glassdoor
  • Pay is only one part of job compensation. A job with low pay might have good benefits like a flexible schedule or health insurance. Think about the job offer in terms of your needs, and long-term career and life goals.
  • Talk over the offer with someone you respect. Make a list of the pros and cons. Use the Weigh Your Options (pdf).
Use good communication skills
  • If you can, do not accept a job on the spot. It's common to get a few days to think about it. Even if you know you are going to say "yes," ask for 24 hours.
  • When offered the job, make it clear if you want it. If you are not sure, say there are some items you would like to discuss before you can accept the job.
  • Listen carefully to the offer. If it is different or less than you expected, let them know that. Say you are still interested in the job if they want to reconsider their offer.
  • Ask for basic, practical benefits first. Those requests might include more money, tuition, or training. You might also ask for more vacation time, a flexible schedule, stock options, or parking privileges.
  • Negotiations should never be mean or emotional. This is a business meeting. Base your negotiation on the value you bring to the employer.
Understand the rules of the game
  • Don't assume the first offer is fixed. Even if the interviewer tells you it is, it rarely is.
  • Did they offer the same pay and benefits a few days later? That's probably the final offer. When this happens, you can ask for a six-month review to look at your performance and pay. You can also turn down the job, and ask that they keep you in mind for future openings. But don't burn bridges — you never know what might happen.
  • Don't say "no" as a trick to negotiate for a higher salary. When you say "no," be ready to lose the job forever.
  • When you accept their offer, ask them to put the salary and benefits in writing.

Job Search Resources for Special Populations

Below is a list of online resources that provide information for specific populations.

Individuals with Disabilities
Jewish Family and Children's Service of PIttsburgh
Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Volunteers of America
Mature Workers
Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh
Jewish Association on Aging
PA Department of Aging
Port Authority of Allegheny County
Refugees & Immigrants
Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh
PA Refugee Resettlement Program
US Citizenship and Immigration
Higher Advantage
Upwardly Global
Free Resources for Learning ESL
Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh
Veteran Employment
Employment VetSuccess
GI Bill
Veterans Leadership Program of Western PA
America's Heroes at Work
Vet Success
Career One Stop: Military Transition
Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh
Youth Works
Pittsburgh Partnership
Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board
Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh
Mon Valley Initiative
Kid's Voice
Neighborhood Legal Services
Employment Information Handbook for Ex-Offenders
Community Assistance
Jewish Family and Children's Service of Pittsburgh
Dress for Success Pittsburgh (Women)
Treasure House Fashions (Women)
Capacity Developers, Inc. (Mens clothing)
Employment, Advancement, and Retention Network (EARN)
Action Housing
PA Department of Public Welfare


Job Search Strategies for Ex-Offenders

There are good jobs available for people with felony records. Ex-offenders must pay attention to how to look for jobs. There are some jobs that people with certain criminal records cannot have. Because of your record, employers may be wary of you. There are employment and training programs to help people with criminal records.

Part of a successful life after prison is getting and keeping a job. Besides being paid, having a steady job can also give you:

Follow these tips to learn what jobs are right for you. Take time to make a career plan. This will make your job search more focused and useful.

Tips for Job Search Success
Don't job search alone. Find a state program to help you. For example, learn about employment laws before you talk about your criminal background.
Be positive. Don't get defensive about your past. Focus on how you can overcome obstacles. Also, point out what you can do for a potential employer. Focus on new skills you have. For example, some people get job training while incarcerated.
Set short-term and long-term career goals. Go to the Create a Plan and Set Goals section for more information.
Create a resume that is honest and shows your work skills. 
Practice answering difficult interview questions.
Network so that more people will know you and can recommend you to employers.
Know which careers match your skills, interests and work values. Review your work from the Assess Yourself section.
Fill out a copy of an application form. Prepare answers to the questions on it. Find help if you need it. Usually, there is a section on an application asking for criminal background information. Always be honest with your responses. Consider stating ‘Will discuss’. If they insist on written answers, get help on how to respond.
Get a copy of your criminal record and review it with a legal professional or someone from the probation or parole office. You should understand what information is on your record and how it affects your employment options.