How to Land Your Dream Job in the Windy City

Chicago is the largest city to make Money Magazine's prestigious Best Places to Live in America list this year. But if you want to take advantage of its affordable housing, excellent infrastructure, and first-class recreational opportunities you'll need gainful employment. Whether you're already a local or planning to relocate, these tips will help you land your dream job in the Windy City.

Do Your Research

Man in sunglasses in front of building

Image via Flickr by Scott Meis Photography

Knowledge is power, so make sure you have plenty under your belt during your job search. Relocaters won't have the inside knowledge locals do, but careful research about Chicago and its employers can fill in the gaps. That doesn't mean that Chicago residents should coast on what they already know. Everyone can stand to learn more about the major players in their industry.

Use the Internet to identify and read up on the largest Chicago-based employers in your field. For example, educators should brush up on Chicago Public Schools, which has 39,094 full-time employees, and the University of Chicago, which has 15,452. If you're a healthcare professional, some of the largest healthcare companies are based in Chicago and employ about 12,000 employees. There are even firms that employ over 18,000 full-time healthcare workers.

Don't forget about the little guys though. If you prefer the working environment of a smaller firm, it's worth checking out some of the city's lesser-known organizations with great company cultures and employee benefits. Small start-ups are getting creative with their employee perks by providing things like unlimited vacation and fun traditions like clubs and tournaments. A growing trend is allowing employees to work at home every Friday or providing health features like the unique treadmill-desk and fresh fruit deliveries.

But don't stop there. No matter where you're based, you should keep up with Chicago news through the websites and social network pages of prominent local media channels. This will teach you about the industry landscape and the current events shaping it, which will help you feel informed and confident when you land an interview.

Make Yourself Look Local

If you aren't already a Chicago local, it's smart to make yourself appear as one. The sad truth is that many companies just aren't willing to pursue candidates outside their local area. They fear that those moving plans might fall through or the employee will lose interest after some time commuting. So if you are committed to working in Chicago, you'll need to bust through these misconceptions.

It's easiest to land a job in a city that you're already living in, so if your budget allows, make the move. You'll be able to accept an interview at a moment's notice and pursue networking opportunities while you're waiting for the right job. It's very expensive to do, especially when you don't have an income coming in, but it may suit people with a nest egg or with a partner working in Chicago.

If this isn't feasible, then you'll need to fake it til you make it. Ask a Chicago-based friend or family member whether you can use their address for your resume. Anecdotal evidence suggests applicants get more call backs when they start using a local address. Get a local phone number as well through Google Voice.

If these things do come up in your interview, be honest about your relocation plans. Hopefully your new employer will appreciate your initiative.

Get Connected with Social Media

Social media won't just help you stay up to date with Chicago's industries. It's also a valuable tool for connecting with local employers and making yourself stand out from other applicants.

Let your Chicago-based online friends know you're on the job hunt and ask them to keep their eyes peeled for any available positions at their organization. The old saying that it's not who you know but what you know still holds water. Connect with the Chicago companies you're interested in, as job opportunities may be posted on their pages before they're made public knowledge. Facebook groups like Moving to Chicago..Jobs and Homes and Jobs in Chicago can also help you make thousands of valuable contacts.

A recent study from the Society for Human Resource Management found 77 percent of employers use social media to recruit new candidates, up from just 34 percent six years ago. So if you don't have updated social media pages on LinkedIn and Facebook you could be missing out on your dream job opportunity.

It's also worth looking at your social media through the eyes of an employer. It's common practice for HR managers to visit the social media pages of job applicants. Shockingly more than half have found information that led to them passing on a candidate. Make sure your page looks professional, without curse words or bigoted statuses. Un-tag yourself from embarrassing photos and adjust your privacy settings to ensure pics you're tagged in won't automatically show up on your wall.

Sign Up With a Local Recruiter

Why would you take on the job search alone when you can get some extra help? A local job recruiter who specializes in your industry is an invaluable job seeking tool. Recruiters at local firms have direct contact with Chicago's hiring managers. These existing relationships can help your resume float to the top of the pile and get you one step closer to an interview. They'll also know the positions you're a good match for, so you won't waste time applying for jobs that aren't the right fit or overlook one that is.

If you do land an interview, they'll help you prepare for it. Little tips like a hiring manager's preference for dressing down or a firm handshake can give you a real competitive edge. And if you don't land the gig, the hiring manager won't sugarcoat the reasons when liaising with your recruiter. The feedback might be brutal, but you can use it to do better the next time.

With these tips in your arsenal, there's nothing stopping you from landing your dream job in the Windy City.

Contributed to by Courtney Rudd

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