Job search has changed. If it’s been 5 years, 10 years — or more — since your last job search, there are some things you need to know to conduct a modern job search.
The Impact of Technology
Not surprisingly, the biggest thing that has changed in the job search is the impact of technology. The ability to apply online for a position has contributed to a substantial increase in the volume of applications that companies receive for open positions. It takes literally seconds — and costs almost nothing — for a jobseeker to apply for a position online. Consequently, companies are inundated with applicants for job openings.
In response to this deluge of applications, companies are using technology to handle the resumes and help identify candidates to interview. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have changed the application and resume screening process in most companies with more than 50 employees. The ATS software allows companies to determine which candidates may be a match for a particular position, based on the content presented in their resume.
If you apply online for a position — whether through the company’s own website or a portal like Indeed or Monster — it’s likely that your resume will be entered into a database. If the information on your resume does not match the specific qualifications and keywords outlined in the job posting your resume will not be seen by human eyes — and even then, the amount of time spent reading and reviewing each resume has significantly decreased.
Bypass ATS & HR: Go Directly to the Decision Maker
One thing that hasn’t changed: People still hire people. So it’s more important than ever to focus on how you can add value to a prospective employer and get your resume in the hands of someone with the authority to hire you.
The least effective way to find a job is to apply for advertised openings, i.e., sending your resume online through a company employment portal or a third-party website. You are just one of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of applicants, and even a standout resume will have a hard time cutting through the clutter with a large pool of applicants.
To increase your chances of securing an interview, you need to bypass the company’s Human Resources department and get your resume in the hands of the hiring manager. The hiring manager is the person in the company with the ultimate authority to offer you the job. In a small company, it might be the owner or an individual who reports to the owner. In a larger company, it might be your future direct supervisor or a specific department manager. Look on the company’s website or use Google and/or LinkedIn to identify the specific person to contact.
There are two ways to get your resume directly to the hiring manager — by email or by snail mail (postal mail). In many cases, you should actually email the hiring manager and send your resume and a customized cover letter via postal mail. Although you may be tempted to skip this step, or only send an email, you’re going to get more attention as a candidate if you put in the extra effort and actually mail a hard copy of your resume and cover letter. Few applicants will go to the trouble to do so, so it can really help you stand out.
Another way to get to the hiring manager is through the people you already know — and/or the people they know. In addition to helping you connect with hiring managers, networking can also be a way to identify unadvertised job opportunities — accessing the “hidden job market.” (The “hidden job market” refers to jobs that are not advertised publicly. These positions may be filled through employee referrals, recruiters, or direct contact with hiring managers through networking.) Research consistently indicates that more than 40% of jobseekers identify networking as the reason they found their most recent job.
Final Bits of Info
Technology has also made an impact on the hiring process — specifically, the pre-screening interview. In the “old days,” you’d likely receive a face-to-face interview with someone from human resources before meeting with the hiring manager. These days, you might have a 10-minute phone interview or a virtual interview over Skype before you meet with anyone in person.
It’s crucial that you demonstrate that you can succeed in a technologically advanced world. That means no AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo email addresses. Use Gmail. If you are going to be applying for positions online, set up a separate email address that you use only for your job search. That way, if you sign up for job alert notifications, you won’t have to unsubscribe from them when you land your new position. (Tip: Do Not use your email address at your current employer [viewed as you are comfortable using company resources for personal reasons] and create an email that includes your first/last name to make it easy for recipients to find you in their inbox.)
One thing that has changed for long-term employees looking to change jobs — or careers — loyalty is no longer rewarded. If you’ve been working at the same company for 10, 15 or 20 years, employers may be reluctant to hire you, thinking you will have a hard time adapting to a new company culture. For this reason, it is especially critical to have a story about why you are looking for a new job. And remember to tie this story to the value you can offer your next employer.