At the rate websites proliferate today, you might have missed this new entry in the category of job search trends: Bright.com. I did! Until now, anyway. I actually started out reading an article on Fast Company, titled “5 Stupid Reasons You’re Underpaid–And How To Fix Them,” and the author said, ” Check out Glassdoor and Bright for background and talk to friends and colleagues in the field–knowing your worth is key to career planning.”
I’d heard of Glassdoor, but Bright? Not in terms of job search or anything else along those lines. I followed the link to the Bright.com website. While I have to say I don’t yet know anyone personally who has used Bright.com in his or her job search, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of what I found.
Bright Labs–New Job Search Trend?
It seems that in 2012, Bright.com launched something called Bright Labs. Here’s an excerpt from their press release:
“Bright Labs is a bi-weekly updated set of interactive tools, infographics, and analyses on the current employment landscape. Bright’s team of data scientists utilizes data from social networks, stock prices and volumes, real estate and construction, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and a variety of other sources to create a holistic assessment of the employment market and to reveal trends and scientific findings. One of the cornerstones of Bright Labs is the Bright Employment Index, which tracks the overall job market and provides a monthly snapshot of fluctuations within any given industry.”
As if that didn’t sound impressive enough, here’s what the press release also says about a concept called The Bright Score, which the company came up with:
The company “has processed over 15 million job descriptions and more than two million resumes, all of which gives the site one of the most insightful and up-to-date perspectives on the jobs landscape. Bright.com has generated more than 20 million Bright Scores, used by job candidates to assess whether or not a job opening is the right fit and by talent recruiters and HR professionals to efficiently evaluate thousands of job applicants and find the most qualified candidates.”
Technology Taking Over Your Job Search?
I’m full of questions today and not much in the way of answers so far. But enough about Bright.com! What does this say about job search trends?
Some people would consider it just more evidence that technology is taking over job searching, and they might have a point. The Internet, social media and other technology trends have had a huge impact on the way many of you conduct your job search–not to mention how you perform your job once you actually land one. It has certainly become important–if not essential–that you develop a reasonable level of competency in using technology tools to manage your career and the various job changes you either have gone through or will go through during that career.
At the moment, however, one critical point about technology and your job search comes to my mind: Technical tools don’t hire other technical tools–people are what need to be hired, and once hired, they have to work with other people. So somewhere, at some point, people need to connect with people. Technology can’t do it all–and I suspect that some of what it can do is not as hugely superior to human interactions as its proponents would like to claim.
As I’ve said before, I’m definitely not anti-technology. I’d just like to see a better balance between it and the people it’s supposed to serve–especially when situations such as your job search are involved.
The trend toward personal branding–as opposed to corporate brand development–has been evident for at least the past few years, if not longer. However, many people still have not paid much (enough) attention to it. If you are one of those who believe personal branding is a flash-in-the-pan fad, I urge you to give the concept another thought. I do not see personal branding as a now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t aspect of savvy career management and well-planned job search campaigns.
Ditch. Dare. Do!–Personal Branding
One of the career-oriented newsletters I receive regularly is “Reach Personal Branding Newsletter – YOUnique.” Today’s edition highlights the upcoming book Ditch. Dare. Do! by Reach Personal Branding’s William Arruda and one of my highly esteemed colleagues, Deb Dib, a CEO coach.
I saw excerpts from the book in a presentation Deb gave at a professional conference I attended last fall, and I am definitely planning to read the book as soon as it becomes available (I’ve put my name and email address on their advance notification list to make sure I don’t miss it). Even though the book is pitched as being of particular relevance to executives, I’m pretty sure you would find it intriguing and thought-provoking even if you’re not at that level–yet.
The concept behind the book is called 3D Branding (you can see the connection with that in the book’s title). To give you just a teaser about what you can expect from the book, here’s a snippet from the conference presentation:
“What is 3D Branding?
- Personal Branding rEvolution.
- You as a whole 3D person.
- You in your world/work world.
- You as your business/career manager.
- You as a DITCH. DARE. DO! daredevil.”
Note: The apparent mis-capitalization of rEvolution in the first item is actually intentional on the authors’ part. They consider personal branding as an ongoing process and 3D branding as a natural but also amazing outgrowth of that–in other words, an evolution that is really a revolution.
Personal Branding’s Role in Career Management & Job Search
We’re not talking about manufacturing an image that you want to present to the public (employers, in particular), even though it really isn’t “you.” Genuine, effective personal branding has to be based on uncovering the reality of your strengths, your unique value, and other similarly distinctive aspects of who you are.
I’m not a branding expert like William and Deb, but I understand the importance of the concept in today’s environment and do help clients with some aspects of it when we work together. You are probably always going to have competition for the jobs and careers you want to pursue; that’s a fact of life. Other people are bound to find them just as desirable as you do.
What gives you the edge in that competitive employment environment? It starts by identifying your unique message to employers, deciding how to communicate it compellingly to the right people, and having a plan for doing that consistently throughout your career management, including a current or anticipated job search campaign.
If you don’t know “who you are” and what makes you special, you can’t expect employers to figure it out for you. They’ll just move on to whoever is next in line. Your job is to make it difficult–preferably impossible–for them to bypass you without at least agonizing over doing so!
P.S. To find out more about 3D Branding, you can check out the 3D Branding video and sign up for notification about the book’s launch. (Personal note: I don’t get any “payment” for recommending this–I just believe it’s something you should know about.)
If you want a definitive direction on resume trends involving ATS (applicant tracking systems), you might find this blog post disappointing–I have yet to find a definitive answer! However, I do have some thoughts to share, which were sparked by an article written by one of my colleagues. Hopefully, that will at least give you something helpful to reflect on.
Resume Trends: ATS
I have conflicting emotions whenever I think or read about the growing use of applicant tracking systems in sorting through (and too often rejecting?) job seekers’ resumes. However, I have somewhat resigned myself to this resume trend as being inescapable and something that just needs to be dealt with. The question then seems to be: How do you deal with it most effectively? One answer that some people have come up with is to load your resume with keywords–also known as keyword packing or keyword stuffing. However, as with many things, this technique can quickly get out of hand and end up creating a negative impact on your ability to be considered by potential employers. Clearly, that isn’t the result you want!
I hasten to point out that I am not recommending the wholesale exclusion of keywords. Far from it. If you don’t include relevant keywords in your resume, whenever and wherever they need to appear, you will be stacking the deck against yourself.
So what is with this ATS/keyword controversy? Partly, it might be a matter of semantics, partly a difference in viewpoints, and partly–who knows? The more impersonal the job search becomes (as the use of ATS technology seems to force itself on you), the more challenging that job search also becomes. Your challenge is to find a way to deal with it or else to circumvent it in reaching company decision-makers.
Keyword Packing is Not the Answer
According to my colleague, “Resumes are not a science; nor do they require mathematical algorithms to land that next great interview. While using language in your resume that mirrors your target company’s needs is imperative, keyword packing is not. In other words, know your audience, be precisely focused in your target job, and let the words bubble up intuitively.” She then lists 5 reasons reasons to expand your focus beyond keywords, including the following:
- Applicant tracking systems (ATS) vary.
- Not every company uses ATS screening.
- Human beings read your resume.
If Not Keyword Packing, Then What?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (for those of you who remember what records are or were!), I’m afraid one answer lies in making a greater effort than you might have in the past to find your own path, first by developing a resume that contains the essential keywords and then by tracking down people who need to see it, so you can get it into the best hands. From an item I read a while ago, that might not keep your resume from at some point being fed through a system that scans it (such as an ATS), but if you have an interested advocate on the inside, they might be able to help smooth the path for you. That’s a possibility worth pursuing.
Years ago you could count on your job search having a beginning, a middle and an ending, just like a good fairy tale. At the conclusion of a job search, you would put all your energy and attention into succeeding in your new job. That would be pretty much it until the next time you were ready to make a change. Not any more. Continuous job search is becoming more the norm than it was in the past.
Active versus Passive Job Seekers
Traditionally, job seekers have been divided into those who are diligently looking for a new opportunity and those who are open to the idea but have done little if anything to promote themselves in the eyes of potential employers. A third category is employed individuals who aren’t particularly interested in making a change because they’re happy to stay where they are. If you’re in that category, you probably don’t even consider yourself a job seeker. However, that doesn’t mean you might not be in the near future, either because of a shift in your outlook or because you’re driven to it by a change in your circumstances.
For example, your employment situation might appear to be stable; you’re well compensated and have interesting work to perform, as well as enjoyable colleagues and a good boss. In that case, you aren’t likely to consider a job search in the foreseeable future. The operative word, however, is “foreseeable.” Suddenly you learn that your company is the target of an aggressive acquisition attempt by a competitor. Realistically, you know your secure job is at least now more questionable than it was, and you feel a need to move from not being a job seeker at all to at least becoming a passive job seeker.
Continuous Job Search is Common
I receive a newsletter published periodically by Express Employment Professionals. In their September/October issue, I read the following: “According to a study by CareerBuilder and Inavero…, 69% of full-time employees are regularly looking for new job opportunities, while 30% job hunt on a weekly basis. With the digital world at our fingertips, it is difficult to distinguish between an active or passive job seeker. 74% of workers find new job opportunities online, 68% come across them through traditional networking, and 67% through job boards. Most employees come across job openings on a regular basis and have no problem looking into new opportunities.” (Staffingindustry.com – Oct. 10, 2012)
Are you among that 69% who are keeping an eye out for new opportunities or maybe among the 30% who maintain their job search on a weekly schedule? Even the smaller of those two groups represents a lot of job seekers contemplating a move and taking steps toward it; the larger group includes over 2/3 of potential job seekers.
Why Maintain a Continuous Job Search
Whether you like it or not–and many of us don’t–you can find yourself in need of a job change (and, as noted above, sometimes when you least expect it). The savvy, career-minded employee (at whatever level–newbie to senior executive) knows it’s a smart idea to take appropriate action before a crisis erupts, rather than waiting until it hits. If you have a well-thought-out career management plan, with actions to take on a more or less scheduled basis, you’re almost certainly going to be miles ahead of those who don’t exercise that kind of forethought. Staying in fairly continuous job search mode could be your ticket on the bullet train while your competitors are stuck on the milk-train with frequent stops or on the broken-down train that’s stalled on the tracks.
Where would you rather be?
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.
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.
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.