Effective job search strategies began changing in the mid-1990s with the appearance of the Internet. In the last few years, the widespread use of search engines and the growth of social media have changed recruiting in ways that are transparent to most job seekers.
Not understanding those technological changes makes job hunting more challenging (and discouraging).
What Has Changed About Effective Job Search?
Recently, employers have turned to technology to help them manage the increasingly large numbers of applications and resumes they receive, an average of 250 responses for each job posting. That volume of resumes, combined with the more widespread use of search engines and social media, has created technology “traps” that job seekers need to understand in order to avoid them.
Employers are using technology in three major ways that are transparent to job seekers:
- Social media provides “social proof.”
Employers compare the resumes and applications submitted by job seekers with what social media shows them. Do the dates, employers, job titles, education, etc, agree with the application or not? Do the other social media activities (LinkedIn groups, etc.) support the expertise and accomplishments claimed on the resume? Applicants who lack online validation of the “facts” on their resumes have a handicap. This is why LinkedIn and Google Plus Profiles can be a job seeker’s best friend.
- Search engines provide fast/cheap “background checks.”
A 2010 study by Microsoft revealed that 80% of employers used search engines to discover information about job applicants. Beyond “social proof” of the resume or application, this research is a quick and cheap version of a background check. Searching through social media can help a job seeker by impressing the employer with positive information about activities and accomplishments. Or it can hurt the job seeker by uncovering potential problems and bad behavior.
- Applicant tracking systems (ATS) manage resumes.
Resumes submitted to many employers, particularly large employers, are often stored in a database known as an applicant tracking system. Use of an ATS makes the keywords used in resumes even more important than in the past. A resume which doesn’t contain the “correct” keywords (those the recruiter is using to search through the ATS for qualified applicants) will not be displayed to the recruiter by the ATS. Consequently, without the appropriate keywords in your resume, your resume will not be seen, no matter how “perfectly qualified” you are for the job.
How Job Seekers Can Climb Out of Those Technology Traps
Job seekers can improve the probability of landing a job through their use of technology. Employers expect job seekers to intelligently use current technology as a demonstration of technical savvy and also as a demonstration of appropriate technical skills for today’s workplace. Not leveraging these technologies makes a job seeker look out-of-date, lazy, or both.
- Use LinkedIn and Google Plus to be findable.
Be sure potential employers find good information about you when they do their research! This is where LinkedIn and Google Plus can be your best friends. Employers hire “sourcers” to search the Internet for qualified candidates, so create robust LinkedIn and Google Plus Profiles to ensure that a sourcer’s Google search on terms like your job title or key skills finds you.
- Manage your online reputation.
Be careful of public online activity. Job seekers regularly lose out on opportunities because of damaging posts they have made in social media. And, job seekers without their own positive visibility (e.g. LinkedIn and Google Plus) are vulnerable to losing opportunities because they look out of date or because of mistaken online identity.
- Research employers online.
Research will make you a more effective candidate and will also hopefully keep you from wasting your time trying to land a job you would hate. What are their products or services? What is their latest news? Who are their officers? Are they doing well or in financial difficulty? Do you know any employees (or know anyone who knows a current employee)? Impress employers with how interested you are in them and their jobs by doing this research and including the results in your applications, resumes, and interviews.
- Customize resumes to each opportunity.
Demonstrate your technical capabilities by customizing your resume to the specific requirements of the job posting you are applying for. Use the employer’s name and job title in the resume – “Objective: [their job title] for [employer name]” for example. Then, trump the ATS by analyzing the keywords used on the job description, and being sure to include the keywords appropriate for you in the resume you submit. This should increase the likelihood that your resume will appear in the ATS search results for that job.
The good news, according to the US Department of Labor is that, every month, over 4,000,000 people do connect with jobs. So your job search is NOT “Mission Impossible”!
By Susan P. Joyce, Online job search expert. Susan has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.