The past two years have seen employers and company cultures make drastic changes regarding their expectations and the realities of everyday work life. In doing so, many have had to cut employees in large numbers, while others have struggled to retain employees who now see through the fact that there may be better options offering more flexibility, work/life balance, and benefits. With so many variables in play, now is an incredibly unique time to be in the job market. But what is the best job-search advice to follow right now?
Hari Kolam, CEO of Findem, a talent acquisition company, explains that now more than ever companies are looking to hire people, rather than employees. This means that the development of personal websites and building up your digital network will help you stand out in positive ways. Conversely, the tricks you may think make your resumé noticeable may be hurting its chances of being seen.
When it comes to searching for a new job, the right strategy is crucial. Whether you’re looking to climb back into employment, switch gigs, or start a new career altogether, we asked Kolam and Akhila Satish, an award-winning career expert and CEO of metacognitive consulting company, Meseekna, to share the tips they think are most vital right now. Here are the tips they mentioned.
1. Build a Personal Website
Focusing strictly on your resume isn’t the best way to maximize your appeal as a candidate. A personal website, per Satish, can help establish you as a multidimensional hire with more varied appeal, and present you as a fleshed-out human being rather than an application-firing drone. “With the power of search engines and social media, there’s a lot more information about candidates available online,” she says. Satish advises clients to include more in-depth information about their greatest accomplishments on their website. This, she says, can be a unique way to supplement your resume and set yourself apart from other candidates and give your potential employer a more encompassing picture of you as an applicant. In general, remember that employers are looking for fits in skills and company culture, which can both be conveyed through a personal website.
2. Take Inventory of Your Existing Network
If you don’t know who you know, you risk missing potential opportunities through mutual connections or experiences. There’s a good chance your LinkedIn profile is a bit dusty, and a comb-through can alert you to information that could be useful in your search. “Before jumping straight into applications and firing off your resume, make an inventory of your network, your resources, experience, and talents that help set you apart from other candidates in the job market,” says Satish. “You may realize that you have a connection with someone based on that inventory or a passion of yours professionally that can help you narrow your search.” With people looking to beef up resumes, you might find shared interests or skills that you can leverage to build new relationships.
3. Keep a “Frustration Journal”
If you’re searching for a job while still in an active role, Satish recommends keeping a ‘frustration journal’ — that is a place where you take notes about the irritating aspects of your current position. “For example, if you’re feeling frustrated by delayed feedback from your manager, make a note to seek out companies with great mentorship opportunities,” she says.” If you’re feeling micromanaged, seek out companies that emphasize independent projects.” The point of these notes is to help you identify the company culture factors you’d like to see in your next position, while avoiding the ones that look a little too familiar.
4. Network with “You” in 10 Years
First, imagine where you’d like to be in 10 years. Then seek out people with that job. Satish says that the act of tactfully reaching out with a message or connection request can potentially offer one-of-a-kind insight. “The key here is specificity and breadth in your networking. If you’re reaching out to anyone with a ‘CEO’ title across any industry, you may be doing yourself a disservice. But once you’ve recognized a field or area of interest, you should reach out to all kinds of leaders to start conversations and expand your breadth of knowledge.” Asking genuine questions like, “What organizations did you join at my stage of your career?” and, “What educational background do you have?” can convey your genuine curiosity and prevent you from rubbing them the wrong way.
5. Use a Tracking System
The organization of your job search can help you become more focused and effective, as it’s easy to forget about where you applied or who you spoke to. A tracking document is vital for this and will help you keep your outreach organized to ensure you’re not missing any key deadlines and connecting with potential employers at the appropriate times. “You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you are inadvertently reaching out to the same person multiple times,” says Kolam. He recommends a platform like Excel or Airtable to track things such as company details, contact information, when you originally applied, how you applied, the employer’s response and the optimal time frame to follow up.
6. Don’t Get Too Fancy
The temptation to fancify your resumé with graphics and logos should be avoided, as the automatic scanning systems are more likely to weed them out. The same goes for PDFs and similar formats, as they can’t be easily detected by most bots. “Avoid using images, charts, and tables,” says Kolam. “They’ll all get mangled when your resume is being imported, any important information will get lost, and you’ll reduce your chances.” Instead, keep your documents text-based, be concise, and remember that computer scanners rarely give points for creativity.
7. Be Truthful About Resumé Gaps
“Over 10 million Americans found themselves unemployed as a result of the pandemic,” says Kolam. “It’s very unlikely that a hiring manager is going to raise an eyebrow when seeing a gap on your resume after Covid hit.” Even if you voluntarily left your job as part of The Great Resignation, knowing that your resume gap doesn’t have the same stigma as it did pre-pandemic can assure you that your honest explanation will be refreshing. And, any experience you gained during a furlough or sabbatical can be used to your advantage. If you’ve volunteered or undertaken any sort of personal development — such as an online seminar or class — while unemployed, it’ll show hiring managers that you’re driven and motivated despite life-changing setbacks.
8. Use Job-Specific Keywords
In medium and larger-sized companies, resumés are typically screened by applicant tracking systems before they even land in front of a human’s eyes. These systems are essentially bots that scan them for terms that align with the job description. “I always recommend that people look closely at the job description and reverse engineer their resumes to include some of the keywords that align with their attributes,” says Kolam. Be sure to include your soft skills — personal attributes, like “flexibility,” “communication”, “creative thinking”, etc. — along with your hard skills, as many recruiters are using AI technology that can match candidates based on both.