It’s a new year, and you’re ready for a fresh start in a new position.
If you want to sharply increase your odds of getting the job you want, you need a strong online presence and some basic skills for navigating through the screening software most companies, and employment-search sites, now use. This is true regardless of the level of job you want. Even entry-level positions now attract huge numbers of applicants. (Click here for a 2011 story about McDonald’s hiring 62,000 people – but turning away 938,000 others who also applied.) So you need to stand out, no matter what job you’re seeking, and creating your online presence is the key. Doing so is free, or nearly so, and it tells employers you’re computer-savvy. Just sending out a resume, or filling out a paper application, is no longer enough for most job opportunities.
My suggested job-search starter kit for 2014 is a current and continuously updated LinkedIn profile, a Facebook profile, and a website in your name (e.g., StuartAlden.com). You’ll also need a good set of connections, and at least a basic understanding how technology is being used to interpret data about your credentials and compare you to other applicants.
As an employee-rights lawyer, I often challenge unfair hiring processes in court. That gives me access to highly-confidential hiring techniques of some of the world’s largest companies, as well as smaller, local employers. What I see are employers heavily relying on software to take applicant information and crunch it for easy side-by-side comparisons of the top candidates. These programs can take tens of thousands of very different resumes, references, work samples and other information and essentially reformat it all in a way that allows for easy review by hiring managers. It’s almost the only way to do it in a market where most any opening draws a flood of applications.
How do you compete? First, get your starter kit up and running. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, make one. It’s free. If you have one, keep it updated and fresh. Create or modify a Facebook profile for career purposes. That’s free, too. Get a web domain in your name and post your knowledge, skills and experience. This isn’t free, but a basic domain and website is very inexpensive at most major hosting sites. (You can set up a blog on thousands of sites for free, but it may lack the impact a site with your own name as the URL adds.) Add content showing your skills. Upload samples of your best work, whether it’s something you created, wrote, repaired or thought about. Video resumes haven’t quite caught on, but it’s another tool and, again, it’s free on sites like YouTube. This search for “video resumes” uploaded in the last week alone on Youtube retrieved 6,600 videos of jobseekers talking about their credentials.
If you are uploading your resume, either directly to the employer’s website or an employment site like Monster.com, you’ll need to know how their software will interpret, classify and rank your information. Most software seeks keywords relevant to the position. Do you have the right keywords? Be sure they’re correct and complete for the desired job, and won’t be confused with keywords for some other, irrelevant skill. Another filter adds up the number of years you have in the desired position or field. The software may do this by combining some of your prior jobs. Be sure similar jobs are uniformly presented in your resume, so you get full credit for relevant years of experience. Still another filter is the recency of your relevant experience. Consider combining jobs, rather than separating them (if employed in different divisions within a single company, for example, to score higher on recency.) Also common is a proximity filter. The software will likely tell the hiring folks that you’re actually 2,500 miles away, and that a comparable candidate actually lives in town. Most applicant data-crunching programs will line you up in a spreadsheet for side-by-side comparison with other candidates.
Show your stuff, but be mindful that how you present your credentials can be as important to the screening software as what you’re presenting. “How” has a huge impact on whether you show up on the spreadsheet and, if you do, where you’ll rank. A little forethought will greatly increase your chances of getting into that group that gets interviewed and hired.