Conducting a job search is hard enough if you get an acknowledgment when you submit your resume for an open position and then don’t hear anything more after that. Not getting any response at all from the employer adds insult to the injury. You probably realize, if you think about it logically, that companies can receive a huge volume of resumes when they advertise a position. However, you also probably can’t help thinking, “There ought to be a way they could at least let me know they received my resume.” You might have heard some of the same explanations (excuses?) for the lack of good communication that I’ve heard. Apparently technical problems with employers’ submission process or systems can make the situation even more frustrating.
How Job Seekers React to a Bad Job Search Experience
An article by John Zappe (on ere.net) talks about this topic in a forthright way. Titled “When Applicants Hear Nothing, They Talk and You Get Hurt,” it suggests that when you have a bad job search experience, you’re likely to act negatively with regard to that company in a variety of ways. As the article indicates, “CareerBuilder’s ongoing Applicant Experience survey found that 78 percent of candidates said they’d be sure to tell family and friends about a bad experience with a potential employer. Seventeen percent said they’d post about it on a social media site….the “black hole” application process causes 44 percent of those who hear nothing to have a worse opinion of the non-responsive employer.”
Apparently, about half of job seekers say they don’t hear anything back at all, so if that has happened to you, you’re in good company–not that that will make you feel a lot better!
Companies Might Pay a Price for Ignoring You
According to the article, “The consequences of a negative candidate experience go beyond the potential loss of quality talent and injury to the employment reputation. The widely held belief is that there is a direct economic impact from treating applicants poorly. A separate CareerBuilder study from a few months ago found nearly a third of respondents saying they are less likely to purchase a product from a company that didn’t respond to their job application.”
What does this mean for your job search? Although you might be distinctly unhappy about being ignored by employers, how likely are you to translate that unhappiness into an action that bad-mouths or otherwise negatively impacts the employer? I suspect this is a situation that makes for a good article but is going to be discounted by many job seekers, who won’t see any benefit to themselves in spreading a bad word about the employer. Doing so is certainly not likely to increase your future chances of working for that company, if in fact you still want to.
And remember: Things you say to others or comments you post online can boomerang and end up costing you, rather than the company that ignored you. It might be a lot better to search actively for companies that treat their applicants with more care, companies that have earned a reputation for treating their employees that way as well.
If you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree but have been thinking about getting one, this post might be of interest (and possibly useful) to you. It’s based on an article by Lee Lawrence titled “Has the Bachelor’s Lost Its Edge?” published in The Christian Science Monitor Weekly on June 18. A key premise is that the value of a four-year degree is going down at the same time as the cost of a college education is increasing, which is prompting people to seek new ways to make themselves distinctive and marketable to employers.
Does a Bachelor’s Degree Help Your Job Search?
According to the article, studies have indicated that a four-year degree does offer advantages, including enabling people to earn more money, increasing their likelihood of finding jobs and enhancing their chances of being chosen for on-the-job training. That sounds like it ought to be a no-brainer. However, as the article also points out, studies are based on the past and aren’t necessarily good predictors of present and future trends. What has happened is that large numbers of people have rushed to get a degree, and now there’s something of a glut, at least in some respects–and the glut appears to be increasing.
Also, the school you went to or are considering going to can make a big difference in whether or not your degree will help your job search. What’s more, the field in which you earn your degree could significantly influence your job search success. Basically, the decision about obtaining a bachelor’s degree isn’t as clear-cut as you might like.
Alternatives to a Bachelor’s Degree
Professor Richard Vedder of Ohio University refers to a concept he calls “spiraling degree inflation.” His concern is that many Americans will get stuck with huge student loans for degrees that don’t bring them the anticipated benefits. As the article quotes, “‘The fact is that it is not a sure shot you’re going to get the high-paying job’…and the notion that the earnings differential ‘is continuing to grow and expand is somewhat suspect.’”
So what are your alternatives? They include completing a two-year degree program at a community college or a trade-specific certificate program that takes less time to earn, as well as free online education from reputable sources (such as Udacity and Coursers) and company-specific training programs (such as Novell and Microsoft certifications).
A Couple of Troubling Concerns
One potential problem is that fact that companies can, do and might continue to require a degree for jobs that really don’t need them, so they can screen out many applicants. I’ve commented on this before and won’t go into it again here. The other concern is that the two-year college programs might not be as widely available going forward as they have been in the past. The article notes that “just as some manufacturing sectors are reporting worrisome shortages of qualified workers, cuts in state funding are forcing many community colleges to replace occupational classes with cheaper-to-run liberal arts courses.”
If you are considering earning a degree, then, it’s important that you evaluate your options carefully before committing to a program and an educational institution. On the other hand, if you already have a degree, you should at least consider whether it’s helping or not. In cases where it’s not clearly helping, maybe you need to find an alternative to beef-up your perceived value and increase your marketability as a job seeker companies will want to talk to.
The phone rings, and a company you applied to wants to interview you more or less “right now.” What should you do? Ideally, start by buying yourself some think-time. That is, indicate to the caller that although you don’t have time to talk properly at the moment, you are definitely interested and would like to schedule a call or in-person interview for a later day/time. Too much is at stake to rush into the interview without a chance to think about it.
Lack of Interview Preparation Time
A recent article by Nick Corcodilos (Ask The Headhunter), has some excellent points to make on the subject of interview preparation. He was specifically responding to an inquiry regarding a call from a recruiter, but his points relate equally well to calls from employers. Basically, he made 3 comments:
- Don’t apply if you didn’t choose the interview based on research.
- Good headhunters always prep their candidates.
- Preparation is more important than showing up on demand.
To finish up, Corcodilos lays it on the line like this: “If you’re dealing with lousy headhunters, stop. If you’re desperate to interview as often as possible under any circumstances, stop….Decline the interview until you are prepared. This isn’t a race. It’s business, and unprepared business people lose.”
Horror Stories: Why Interview Preparation Isn’t Optional
Years ago, I had a client call me to say that he thought he had just blown his chance for an interview. He had received a call from a manager about the resume he had submitted. The indication at the beginning of the call was that this was just the precursor to an in-person interview. By the end of the call, no suggestion of a face-to-face interview was made. What went wrong? It might have been the fact, as my client mentioned to me, that he happened to be taking care of his two young grandchildren at the time, and he was distracted on more than one occasion while trying to answer the caller’s questions–to the extent that he wondered once or twice where in the world his responses had come from!
As I tell clients when we’re doing interview coaching, you do not have to proceed at the time of that initial phone contact, and if you handle it professionally, you can arrange a time to talk that allows you to prepare properly and to minimize interview distractions during the phone call. Along with that, however, it’s a good idea to heed Corcodilos’ advice to avoid applying and trying to secure interviews until you’ve done your research. You owe it to yourself to give interview preparation your best shot.
It seems that stress of one kind or another is part of our everyday lives now. It certainly plays a role–good or bad–in job searching, as well as on-the-job activities. But are you familiar with current views about the role of stress in conjunction with multitasking? I recently received an email link from OnlineUniversities.com regarding Digital Stress and Your Brain that gave me a lot to think about. I highly recommend that you check it out. It’s in the form of an infographic, with relatively little text to read and graphic images to make the text clear.
Multitasking Job Seekers: Are You Kidding Yourself?
If you think you can effectively manage multiple overlapping or basically concurrent tasks during a job search, you might well be kidding yourself. According to the infographic, even Superman and Wonder Woman might not do as well at multitasking as they think! For starters, here are a few excerpts of information from the infographic:
- The average amount of time we spend daily on media consumption rose from 5 hours in 1960 to 12 hours in 2010.
- Only 10% of adults spent measurable time online in 1995; by 2011 that had skyrocketed to 75%. even worse, for teens it was 95%.
- When your brain faces two tasks, part of it divides in half so each half can focus on one task. Another part enables you to switch between the two. Once you add a third task, the brain can’t divide any further, so accuracy drops considerably.
What if You Feel Compelled to Multitask in Your Job Search?
If you’re loaded with responsibilities when you’re trying to conduct a job search, you might feel as if you have no choice but to multitask to get all the essential tasks done. However, I encourage you to think beyond this snap-judgment view of the situation. You could find better, more effective and less harmful ways of dealing with it. Sometimes, for instance, you can stagger the tasks somewhat, so you’re not trying to meet same-time deadlines on all of them. Along the same lines, you might find–if you think carefully about it–that you can divide the tasks into chunks and focus on one at a time at least for short periods. That could help your brain transition from one to the other more smoothly and productively.
I’m a fan of making lists or timelines for the tasks I need to accomplish, to help me stay on track and not get overloaded (stressed). When I make a good effort to do that, it invariably helps. The problems arise when I don’t stick to that approach and “overwhelm” attacks me! Sometimes it comes from external factors outside my control, and I just need to regroup as quickly as possible and get back on track. However, at other times it happens because I didn’t stay focused and let my functioning become scattered. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather keep that from happening! I work more effectively and feel better at the same time. I suspect you would, too.
In a recent post on job search tools–specifically, TagCrowd–I promised the next post would cover Preptel as a job search tool. To be brief, life got in the way! However, from my preliminary research, I think Preptel is a tool you might want to investigate. It might help you cope with the aggravating trend toward forcing job seekers to fit their resumes into the ATS (applicant tracking system) mode if they want to avoid being prematurely ruled out by employers, so this post is a quick look at what Preptel is and does.
What Preptel Offers to Job Seekers
Preptel is a company that “provides Candidate Optimization services to improve a candidate’s chances of getting an interview and securing an offer.” [Quoted from their website.] The actual name for their Resume Optimization service is Resumeter(TM). It offers you help in customizing your resume to increase its odds of being reviewed and considered for an interview. Among other things, it can highlight errors and areas that could stand improvement in order to meet the specifications of the employer’s system.
The company’s Interview Guides give you a detailed analysis of how you stack up compared with other people who are applying for the same position as you are. It ranks your strengths and weaknesses in 7 major categories, including education, work experience and industry experience. Since I haven’t tried it out myself, I’m not sure how they access information about the people are who are competing against you, but I imagine that’s covered somewhere in their information that I haven’t read yet. In any case, it seems like a potentially useful concept.
Why You Might Want to Try Preptel as a Job Search Tool
According to the company, “job candidates have less than a 2% chance of getting an interview. Preptel is the first technology company to focus on improving a candidate’s chances by providing proven solutions to help a candidate be positioned for each job.” That’s essentially typical marketing verbiage, but it basically says you could be up against some stiff odds in trying to land an interview and they might be able to offer a useful option for improving your odds.
The good news is, you can check out their free trial and decide whether you think the service is worth hanging onto. If so, you’ll pay about $25 for one month or $50 for three months. It’s hard to see how you could go very far wrong with this arrangement.
A Word of Caution about This Job Search Tool
This cautionary note doesn’t necessarily just apply to Preptel. The key point is that you must have a specific job opportunity in mind for Preptel to evaluate your resume against it and against your competition. If you’ve designed your resume to fit a number of opportunities in a job field you’re interested in, the postings for the jobs might contain at least some elements that are different from each other. I assume that means you’d need to make changes in the resume to fit each specific job opportunity. Depending on your circumstances, though, you might figure it’s worth the trouble. Like many other situations, the final decision rests with you and what you think makes sense.
Some people think they’re too busy to conduct an effective job search–they feel overloaded at work, overwhelmed by family responsibilities, unsure what tasks to tackle next on their “to do” list. You know what–I think I just described myself, LOL! Except, of course, I’m not conducting or even planning a job search because I love what I’m doing now. Having said that, I think there are a lot of parallels between being an independent business owner/operator and a job seeker or potential job seeker.
Identify Primary Job Search Priorities
No human being I know can do everything at once, not even close. As for doing everything and doing it well–fat chance! That’s just as true for planning and conducting a job search or managing your career effectively as it is for someone like me who is what’s known as a solopreneur (no employees, etc.). Sooner or later–and sooner is better–you have to make some choices. Start by cutting yourself some slack and recognizing that not only can’t you do everything at once but also it’s okay to acknowledge and accept that fact. Superman or superwoman/Wonderwoman is a comic-book myth.
The next step is to identify the primary job search (or career management) items you need to complete in order to accomplish your next goal. You can start by including everything you’d like to achieve, but eventually you’ll find it necessary to begin whittling down that list to what’s do-able. That requires setting job search priorities (the must-do items) and establishing a prioritized timeline for completing them.
How to Handle Changing Job Search Priorities
Few things remain static in this life, and job searching/career management requirements definitely fall into the changeable category. That is, whether you want them to stay predictable and in line with your plans or not, they sometimes just won’t cooperate! You simply can’t script-out everything in your job search plan and expect to execute it exactly as originally planned. If you’re very lucky and have done your preparation work properly, you might actually succeed in that, but don’t count on it. As I tell my interview coaching clients, “expect the unexpected and be ready for it!”
When events outside your control force a change in plans, you need to reexamine both your end-goal and the actions you had planned to initiate to achieve it. Some elements might need to be postponed, accelerated or eliminated altogether. It’s also a good idea at this point to take a fresh look at the resources you are counting on to help you succeed in your job search. Maybe some of them need to be reevaluated and re-prioritized as well.
Occasionally you will find that the initial goal isn’t where you need or want to go any longer. Don’t be afraid to look at new possibilities. Sometimes they can produce results that will surprise and delight you.
I recently learned of a new tool that could be useful to job seekers and wanted to pass the info along to you, in case you didn’t already know about it. The tool is called TagCrowd, and it’s currently free for personal use (I paid a modest $19 to use it as a business). Here’s a brief description from their web site: “a web application for visualizing word frequencies in any text by creating what is popularly known as a word cloud, text cloud or tag cloud….TagCrowd specializes in making word clouds easy to read, analyze and compare, for a variety of useful purposes.” Those purposes include speeches, resumes and website SEO analysis.
How does TagCrowd work?
You can copy and paste text, specify a web site URL or upload a file. You can make choices regarding several options, including how many words you want it to highlight, whether or not you want it to indicate the number of times a word was used, etc., and you can tell it to exclude certain words from consideration. So say, for example, you want to find out what employers are looking for (emphasizing) in their job postings; you can ask TagCrowd to go through the wording for you. Then you click “Visualize,” and TagCrowd does the rest. It provides some neat visual indicators, such as making words appear in larger and/or bolder print if they’re used more often. The idea is that you then make sure you include any of those often-used words in your resume that are a good fit with your experience.
Another possible use for the service is to check something you’ve written and see whether you’re over-using a particular word or words. I know I sometimes do that unintentionally (as opposed to deliberately using keywords to attract search attention, for instance), and this tool would help me avoid that problem. You might find it useful in that regard as well.
Any Problems with TagCrowd?
It’s early yet, but so far I’m not aware of any big drawbacks to using it. It seems to work fairly quickly, so unless you’re asking it to go through a succession of multi-page documents, you shouldn’t run into a problem. It does have some limits: plain text inserted must be 3MB max., and an uploaded file must be 5MB max. However, you could presumably do more than one request in a row and look at longer/larger items that way, if you have the time.
My next post is scheduled to touch on yet another job search tool, Resumeter(TM) by Preptel.