20 Rules for the Modern Job Search
It’s difficult to remember a time we didn’t have the world’s information at our fingertips.
It took until around the mid ’90s for America Online and other providers to bring the internet into our homes, and Google didn’t come on the scene until 1998. Back then, few foresaw how completely this technology would change our lives, including how we find and apply for jobs.
As Louise Kursmark, executive resume writer and author of “Modernize Your Resume” says, “Today it is much easier to find a job posting. With the ease of sending out resumes, the job search seems easier,” but today’s job search is hard.
Though technology has changed things, “Fundamentally the most effective strategies have remained unchanged: targeted search, networking, referrals, personal introductions,” she said. “People tend to overlook this and focus on sending out and uploading resumes.”
If you’ve been out of the job market for a while, you’ll notice that many things are done differently. Technology has simplified the process, but there may be more to consider.
Here are things you need to know for the modern job search.
1. Be Concise and Precise
While ideally you update your resume at least once or twice a year, you’ll want to review it before sending it out. Length is no longer an issue, but you do need to make every word count. If you need help, today there are many online articles on resume writing or you can hire a resume writer.
“The biggest change in resume development of the past ten or so years is the need to more concisely and precisely list your achievements,” said Kursmark. “People tend to skim; they may get bored or skip over parts. So you need to give them quick bites of information.”
2. Lose Your Resume’s Objective Statement
“The objective statement on a resume is outdated, it looks old fashioned,” Kursmark said. “It says to an employer: this is what I want, instead of this is who I am and this is what I can do for you.”
Kursmark says an objective should be expressed in the resume, for example by using clear job titles, making it easy to skim. “Make sure your resume communicates who you are and what you want to do.”
3. Make Sure Your Resume Contains Keywords
Today, submitting a resume is most often done via email or uploading to a site.
“If you will be uploading it directly to a website, you need to have the right language in your resume,” Kursmark said. “It should be keyword driven, using some of the same words that are in the job listing.”
Note that keywords are precise. “Project manager” and “project management” won’t show up in the same search.
4. Review the You the World Sees
Before you send anything out, review your online persona.
Google yourself to see what a prospective employer will find. Update LinkedIn and any other online profile you have. Look at your social media presence to determine what image you project and, if needed, clean it up by deleting potentially offensive posts or those that can be misunderstood, (some private jokes are easily misconstrued). Check privacy settings to see how private your personal life really is.
Consider creating a new email address if the one you use is too “cute” or reveals personal information an employer would not need to know. Call your cell and home phone numbers and listen to your voicemail; this may be a prospective employer’s first impression of you.
5. Update (Or Create) Your LinkedIn Profile
It is almost certain that hiring managers will look for you on LinkedIn.
As the most popular tool for recruiters, (roughly 87 percent use it) LinkedIn serves as a way for them to find you. Make sure your profile is up to date, especially your contact information. Connect with people and join groups. Check your account regularly, daily if you are actively job searching, and look at the job boards on the site.
“When creating your profile, make sure you have all your jobs listed and have descriptions of those jobs,” Abby Kohut, president of AbsolutelyAbby.com, said. “Make sure the keywords from your resume are on LinkedIn so recruiters can find you.”
Kursmark agrees. “You have to have a LinkedIn profile,” she said. “It should match your resume but not be identical. A resume is a lot more structured. On LinkedIn you can add a video or a document and enhance your profile in ways you can’t with a resume.”
She cautions users to remember it is a public profile. “There might be details you don’t want to share,” said Kursmark. For example, if you are employed, you might not want to announce you are searching.
6. Be Location Specific
Kohut adds you should “make sure you have a good zip code, one that’s close to the jobs you are applying to,” as recruiters use them to search for candidates.
7. Use Online Job Boards ... To a Point
Once upon a time, the job search involved reading through pages of newspaper classified sections. Today that section has shrunk to a page or two. So where are all the jobs now?
According to Kohut, the best place to look for job listing is on job boards, such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter. These aggregators pull jobs from all over the web. She says it is also worth the time to look on Monster and CareerBuilder, what she calls the “old time” boards where recruiters pay for ads. Finally, there are niche or special interest boards. Most of these are free; those that charge fees often allow you to sign up for free then pay to upgrade later.
You will soon find that many jobs are never posted. You might need to get creative to discover these open positions. This often means telling people you are looking for work.
8. Networking May Be More Important than Ever
While the term has only been around a few decades, networking has always been used as a job search strategy. As Kursmark says, “Humans hire humans.” She suggests job searchers “reach out to people you know and chat about the work they do.”
While technology has made contacting people easier, it also means people spend more time interacting with screens than other people. While there are still in-person networking events (which can be found through friends/acquaintances, alumni organizations or even online groups), they take more effort to attend, but are important.
“Get out of the house and go to networking events,” Kohut said. “You want to hear about leads from people at these events. Meet [people] and connect on LinkedIn so when you see an opportunity, you have a way to contact the company.” If you can’t find an event in your area, create your own. “On meetup.com,” she said, “you can start your own meetup for $14 a month.”
Though it seems less personal, online networking also has value. Join groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, and follow headhunters on Twitter. While not common, it is not unheard of to find a job through a LinkedIn status.
9. The Cover Letter Is Still Important
Today many people skip the cover letter, which Kohut thinks is a mistake.
“I think it’s more important today than 15 years ago,” she said. “Back then, about half the population included a cover letter. Today, only about two in 100 people do. A cover letter will make you stand out.” She adds, “If the website does not ask for one, paste it into your resume.”
A cover letter should tell “why you are interested in the company and the job,” said Kohut. “Show your passion in a bulleted list of accomplishments that match the job description. Pull these right off your resume.” Kohut offers a free cover letter template to anyone who emails firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kursmark also believes including a cover letter is important. “It may help, it can’t hurt,” she said. In an informal survey, she found that one third of people never read cover letters, one third always read them and one third will read them only if they like the resume.
10. An Email Is a Cover Letter, Too
Kursmark points out that when emailing your resume, the email is the cover letter.
She advises job seekers to be brief; people don’t have time to read lengthy emails. However, she disagrees that one should include a cover letter in the resume document. “They are not expecting that,” she said, adding that job seekers should pay attention to any instructions. “Don’t annoy them by not following them.”
11. Consider Employment Agencies
While these have been around for a long time, today’s agencies tend to be more specialized and offer more services. While it’s not as easy to find these professionals today, a little sleuthing on LinkedIn can help find them.
“Employment agencies used to have store fronts that you could just walk into,” Kohut said. “Those are gone. They are now online. Search firms, aka headhunters, want to find you, not have you find them. They find you via boards like Monster and LinkedIn.”
If you aren’t on these sites, you might not be found.
12. Use Your Phone (But Not Just For Making Calls)
Today, most communication happens online. The initial (and sometimes only) contact is often via email and a surprising amount of communication now occurs through texting. Make sure your email is listed on your resume.
Kursmark stresses the importance of knowing how to email and text. “Texting is becoming a common form of communication with candidates,” she said. “You need to have some level of comfort [with the technology]. Today we are using phones to view sites, apply for jobs and to shop.”
Technology has become ingrained in our lives, but when it comes to the job search, you “need to remember this is still business related,” says Kursmark. You need to maintain business language and an appropriate level of respect. You can’t be too casual and you need to spell out words. She stresses that it is important to “understand the rules of business communication.”
13. You Need to Know More About Companies
Always an important step, interview prep today means knowing more. Having access to more information means you are expected to know more. Interviewers expect you to have some familiarity with the company.
Kohut says your first stop should be the company website. Look for the “about” section, and if they have it, their “press” section. Use Google. Look for stories about the company. If they are public, she says, understand their stock and why it has gone up or down. Search social media for news on the company or business trends in the field.
If you want to practice, you can find example questions online (sites such as Glassdoor provide specific examples).
14. Know That Interviews Take Many Forms
Today many jobs require multiple interviews and some may be done from the comfort of your own home. An interview may be with one or more people, or even in front of a panel.
Video interviews are becoming more common, using technology such as Skype. According to Kursmark, the latest technology includes robotic interviews where the initial interview is done by a robot which asks the questions while candidates are recorded.
While home may be a convenient place to interview, you shouldn’t get too comfortable. People joke that a benefit of video is that only your top half has to look professional, but you need to remember that the camera is running.
Kursmark advises candidates to practice before a video interview. “Learn the setup that will make you look good,” she said. Consider things such as background, lighting and sound level.
“Do a test,” she said. “How do I look on video? How do I sound? Watch for nervous mannerisms. You may have to sit on your hands. Learn where the camera is and look at it.”
15. Seek Out Professional Recommendations
A letter of recommendation has long been a way for employers to assess whether someone is right for a job; at one time these were often used only to verify information after a decision had been made. Today, smart job seekers have recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles. (This is not the same as an “endorsement,” but is a written statement of your abilities).
Kohut says you need three recommendations, and these can come from anyone who has ever seen your work: a boss, employee or co-worker. If you aren’t comfortable asking someone directly, she says, “write a recommendation for them. Then they may want to write one for you.”
“Recommendations are still important,” said Kursmark. “They are checked. Past employers may be contacted even if you don’t provide their names.” The internet makes it easy to find them. She adds that how you look and what you say online matter. The best advice: “Use good judgement in the workplace and in your personal life.”
16. Yes, You Should Still Write Thank You Notes
Thank you notes never go out of style. Many people forget this important step.
Kursmark said, “I recommend sending an email the day of an interview or the next day at the very latest. Reiterate key points brought up and express your interest. If you don’t have an email, use text. Get in touch with people quickly.”
While real mail is rarely used, she says it can help you distinguish yourself.
Kohut agrees that a handwritten note can make you stand out. She also suggests that the thank you note shows the “real you.” Many people get help with their resume and cover letters, but the thank you note is all you.
17. Persistence Matters
The changes in the application process mean that there are many more applicants for each job than there used to be. This means that hiring managers simply cannot respond to everyone who applies. Some won’t respond to all those who have interviewed. Try to not take it personally.
“You have to have patience,” Kohut said. “Keep applying to other jobs. Don’t get your heart set on one. After you walk out the door after the interview, keep going.”
It can be discouraging. “Often there is no person to follow up with,” said Kursmark. She also points out that there may be 200 candidates, but only three get interviews. The odds aren’t in your favor. Just “apply and put it out of your mind.”
18. Follow the 90/10 Rule
Kursmark says job seekers should spend 10 percent of the time applying online and 90 percent networking, looking at the industry, doing research and talking to people in the field.
19. Be Ready for the Next Job Search
While earlier generations often worked at the same company until they retired, today the average worker has ten different jobs before turning forty.
In today’s economy, jobs come and go. Workers need to be ready for the possibility of downsizing. Updating your resume with each job change ensures important details aren’t forgotten and left off. Being active on LinkedIn by regularly updating your profile, adding connections, and liking and sharing posts can make you aware of new job opportunities. Keeping current with industry news can help you see which direction your industry may be headed. Remember that helping others will be remembered when you need help.
20. Make Sure the Job Is Right For You
The job offer is not the end of the process. When you get an offer, take your time and evaluate whether it is right for you. Ask for time to consider the offer. Look at the benefits and the hours and how long the commute will be, as well as the company’s culture.
“You might be able to negotiate extra time off, a bonus, job title, where you sit (an office versus a cubicle), or working at home,” said Kohut.
When it comes to determining appropriate salary, check salary guides. Kohut says “Payscale.com is the best one out there that I’ve seen.” Then make sure you reply within the agreed-upon time frame.