The U.S. unemployment rate is near historic lows, so landing a job is a cinch, right? Not necessarily. Many employers clearly are having trouble filling open positions, but that doesn’t mean they will hire a poor candidate.
Here are some basic tips to conduct a job search correctly and stand out at a time when so many applications are done over the internet or through other digital channels:
1. Get the resume, application right
There’s little point in seeking out jobs for which you lack the necessary skills and experience. But if you are a strong candidate, make sure the employer knows. A resume should be clear and concise, with no typos or other errors. It should accurately summarize your job talents and background in a page or two.
“A lot of times, less is more,” said Jeff Seifert, CEO of Professional Placement in Tempe. “But this is also the time to brag.”
Your application letter should highlight many of the same skills the employer is seeking, as outlined in its job posting.
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2. Hone your social media image
About four in five job recruiters check profiles on LinkedIn and other websites to evaluate job candidates, according to a survey by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Thus, it pays to keep this information current and accurate, while ensuring that it makes you look impressive.
“Recruiters and hiring managers are looking at so much more than just a candidate’s resume,” said Denise Gredler, CEO of BestCompanies AZ, which evaluates and profiles leading employers. “Some companies are even bypassing the resume and going right to the LinkedIn account.”
It might be time to take down some of those wild party photos or other questionable images on other social-media sites. To avoid unpleasant surprises during the application process, first “Google yourself and see what comes up,” Gredler suggests.
3. Know what you want
The most successful job applicants can articulate the type of company and position they’re looking for, rather than just saying they’ll take anything.
The latter type of response “doesn’t help the recruiter at all to determine if you will be a good fit for their company culture,” said Gredler. Candidates should have a clear vision of what they want to do, to see if it aligns with an employer’s needs, vision and values.
It pays to research the employer to make sure you would want to work for it. The more you know about the business, mission and other aspects, the more you can decide whether it would be a good fit. Websites such as BestCompaniesAZ.com provide insights on benefits, values and more, as voted on by employees.
During the interview, it pays to show genuine interest.
“Employers want someone who’s excited to work there, as much as they want the skill sets,” said Seifert. “If you’re interested, then they’ll become more interested.”
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4. Pay attention to basics
Even in a highly automated world, it can pay to write a handwritten note following an interview or, at least, send an email or text message of thanks. Seifert receives very few printed resumes that are mailed in. But when he does, “I look at them,” he said.
Doing some of the application and follow-up work in a more traditional way can help you stand out from the digital crowd. And if you get to a face-to-face interview, it pays to be punctual, dress appropriately, answer questions directly, maintain a positive attitude, make eye contact and otherwise hone those all-important soft skills.
“Being old-school helps,” Seifert said. “People still hire people.”
5. Strengthen skills, broaden interests
Even before getting to the application and interview stage, you should be working to become a stronger candidate. You obviously can learn a lot of new skills if employed, but it’s up to you to keep learning if you’re between jobs.
Online courses and various professional certificate programs can broaden your knowledge. While many employers do pay for continuing education, the proportion is shrinking, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
Another option is to join community groups and professional/trade associations. These can be good sources to tweak your skills and expand your contacts through networking.
It’s important to meet new people who could help in a job search, but it’s not enough just to collect business cards. Try to have lunch or get together for coffee with at least one new contact each week, suggests Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8616.
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