As mentioned before, gone are the days when you could throw resumes at a bunch of “help wanted” ads in the local papers and hope enough would stick to get you a new job. The initial successor to that haphazard technique—posting your resume on a zillion online job boards—has also run into major problems over the past few years. For one thing, this change meant that you had a much larger competitive arena to struggle with in order to gain employer recognition and responses. Instead of just competing with people more or less in your local market, suddenly you found that your competition could be located many miles away, in another state or even in another country.
When you compound that situation with the gloomy economic news—not only in the United States but essentially worldwide—you can see yourself as facing a really formidable job search challenge. Based on the majority of the news reports, it would appear that hardly any companies are hiring, anywhere, and there’s going to be a huge influx of resumes for those precious few positions that might open up.
Macro versus micro job search
So the macro job search approach you’ve probably used in the past has stopped working, and given the current outlook, tough times aren’t going away any time soon. What does that mean in terms of your personal employment outlook or prospects for a healthy career path? To begin with, let’s consider the real possibility that bright spots do exist in the employment world, even if they sometimes resemble a moving target that only a sharpshooting Annie Oakley could hit. Gloom-and-doom isn’t absolutely universal; it just seems that way!
Although the current and immediately foreseeable job market conditions present an overall “down” image, bright spots do offer some hope for determined job seekers. Finding them, however, requires a new approach to job searching, and a key element of that approach is a “micro” attitude. That attitude says you need to research to find out where things seem to be going well—or at least noticeably better than most other locations, industries, companies, and so on. For example, what geographical locations, industries and organizations appear to be successfully bucking the trend? Pull information from all the reliable sources you can identify and evaluate the clues that information gives you about places and jobs you can reasonably focus on—put some mental muscle into, so to speak.
Sometimes, considering a situation from the macro perspective is the right thing to do. However, looking for a new employment opportunity or career advancement possibility in today’s job market probably isn’t one of those times. On its own, macro doesn’t offer great potential for success these days; however, pairing it with a micro job search approach could increase your prospects for success at least somewhat. That’s a lot better than throwing up your hands in despair and giving up all hope of landing a new job that meets your needs.
I’ve heard references to the hidden job market that go back decades, so this isn’t a new concept. We used to say that only a small percentage of available jobs were ever found in the classified section of the local newspaper. Fast-forward to the Internet age, and the statement changes to “only a small percentage of available jobs are advertised on the Web.”
So where are those hidden jobs hiding? Why aren’t they being advertised, and how can you find the ones you’re most interested in?
The last part of that question is a key piece of the puzzle. It suggests that you need to conduct a highly focused and active search to find opportunities, for at least a couple of reasons: (1) The job you’re after might get filled without ever being advertised anywhere outside the company. (2) Even if it does eventually show up as an opening online, your competition increases significantly, and they’ll all be going after the posted job just as eagerly as you will. I don’t know about you, but if I were looking for a new position in today’s tough job market, I’d prefer a less crowded field of competitors than that.
Opportunities in the hidden job market won’t land themselves in your lap.
Here’s the sticking-point for a lot of job seekers: By far the most effective approach to the “new reality” of finding a job takes effort…maybe a lot of effort and a fair amount of time. Conducting a job search was much easier, at least on the face of it, when all you did was find an advertised opening and submit your resume and cover letter. Easier, maybe. At least you could tell yourself you were doing something constructive. Effective? Only if you didn’t have much competition or just happened to get in on the ground floor ahead of them somehow. Now you need to turn the old adage about “work smarter, not harder” on its head a bit and work both smarter and harder to manage your career wisely, unearth desirable employment opportunities and pursue them successfully.
Those opportunities might lurk in the minds of company employees you know (or don’t know but should), vendors the company uses, people you have a connection to via LinkedIn or other social media venues, or a host of other places. Your assignment, to paraphrase television’s “Mission Impossible,” is to get out there and connect the dots that will lead you to new and emerging opportunities. If you haven’t already developed at least a short list of companies you want to target, that’s one place to start getting to know people. Those companies might not be hiring now, for instance, but if you establish a foothold with a few insider connections, you’ve positioned yourself to jump ahead of your competition.
What works in job searching has changed. Are you changing with it?
Another point to consider is the changing nature of employment and company hiring these days. If we’re old enough, we might think back longingly to the “good old days” when jobs were plentiful and almost anyone who was breathing could get one without trying too hard. Of course, the good old days of easy employment might not be as good as our memory paints them, but even if they were, they’re gone. And they’re not coming back. Sorry, but that’s the reality. I recently started reading a book that makes this clear; it’s called Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0, by Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry. As the book notes, “Looking for an old-fashioned job like the one Dad used to have is a waste of your time.” Further on, it states, “The hidden job market isn’t really hidden. It is just not in plain sight….The only successful way to access this market is to reach the hiring managers before they opt to go the advertising or HR route.”
Clearly, you need a plan for the new reality of job search–one that keeps you on track, makes the best use of your available resources, and gives you the flexibility to adjust your actions when you need to–which you probably will.
Are you camera-ready? If not, you might want to consider an “extreme makeover” before you find yourself asked to participate in some form of video interviewing for your next position! Seriously, although video as a factor in job searching and employment interviewing has been around for years, video interviewing hasn’t really taken off the way original participants and providers anticipated. Lately, though, I’ve been seeing news items that suggest a trend all job seekers should be aware of.
Most recently, I read an article from Recruiting Trends that mentioned a company called InterviewStream being certified as a video interviewing solution by Taleo, which is a leading SaaS-based talent management solution provider. That’s a potentially powerful partnership, and you might want to know more about it. To do that, you can read the video interviewing article and also visit the InterviewStream website to learn more about InterviewStream as a company. Briefly, though, here are a few points that struck me about InterviewStream’s offerings and the deal with Taleo:
- The company provides web-based solutions to employers, executive search firms, staffing firms, and the world’s leading global career transition firm.
- Its clients use pre-recorded and live video interview management systems to pre-screen candidates and interview talent remotely (i.e., not at its facilities).
- Customers can now “initiate, view, share and provide collaborative feedback on candidates who are interviewed using InterviewStream’s video interview platform.” The solution enables them to cut their travel budget and increase their efficiency in managing interviews.
What’s missing here? Help for job search and career change candidates. It’s geared toward helping companies manage their recruiting process, save money, etc. It is not intended to help you land a new job or achieve career advancement by conducting effective interviews with prospective employers. The one potential benefit I can see is that it does enable you to interview at companies without having to travel possibly great distances (which the employer might or might not reimburse you for).
According to the article, InterviewStream saves client companies a lot of money while “providing a superior candidate experience.” Does that mean the job seeker candidate has a “superior” experience with the video interviewing process, or does it mean the company gets to interview more superior candidates? If the former, in exactly what way is the candidate’s experience superior? The article doesn’t say.
Occasionally I read something by a recognized expert on employment issues or job search techniques, suggesting—or plainly stating—that resumes are dead and job seekers shouldn’t bother using a resume to secure their next position. If you’re sitting there staring at your shiny new resume, especially if you’ve just paid a professional to create it, you might be wondering whether you’ve wasted your time and hard-earned money. Take heart; all is not lost.
I’ve seen experts make a strong case for not using a resume—including active job development approaches and value-demonstration tactics—and some of them have a much more exalted presence in the career management field than I do, even though I’ve been in it a long time. However, I’ve also had clients take the resume I created for them and parlay it into interviews and job offers that led to a satisfying career move. So my view is that a resume—done right and used effectively—can still help you capture desirable job opportunities. The operative terms are “right” and “effectively.”
It’s true that if you think having a resume is all you need for a successful job search, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. In the first place, I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten hired just by having a professional resume. Life seldom works like that, and the employment or hiring process virtually never does. In the first place, employers won’t “find” you in the vast universe of applicants unless you target them, so simply firing off your resume for an advertised opening is ineffective at best.
If you’re a senior-level manager or executive, you’re most likely not shopping your resume around via online job boards, company job postings or other similar methods anyway. To start with, you probably have a network of contacts you will selectively share your situation and goals with. Even though those individuals know you, you might want to provide them with a copy of your resume as a quick way for them to understand what you are pursuing and what you want to offer to employers.
As a matter of fact, even if you’re not a senior-level job seeker, that’s not a bad way to increase the effectiveness of your job search!
So don’t assume resumes are “dead.” Just re-think the possibilities and choose what works best for you in your unique situation.
Nick Corcadillos, of Ask the Headhunter, offers advice and opinions that are sometimes controversial, but it appears that when people follow his recommendations, they experience a high level of success. One of his most recent articles was titled “Employer Fined for Stupid Recruiting.” It had to do with a company in New Jersey that was fined under a new state law for placing a service manager ad that said, “’Must be currently employed’ because the company wanted someone ‘at the top of their game and not people who have been unemployed for 18 months.’” Corcadillos also noted that the company’s CEO had spent three years searching through resumes to try to fill the position, which means that all that time they didn’t have someone doing the job. Crazy, right?
I’ve heard from a few resume writing clients about ads stipulating that job applicants must be currently employed, and it struck me as not only short-sighted but also discriminatory. If you experience this, do you have any options? Apparently, it’s not yet against the law in any state except New Jersey, so your legal options are probably non-existent unless the company has actually violated a law that is on the books. You might not even want to work for a company that has that kind of “stupid” employment policy, but if you do, you probably need to adopt a more creative approach than just responding to their job posting by submitting your resume. In other words, find a way to get in touch with an influencer inside the company, preferably the hiring manager or someone who has a connection to him/her.
You are not less valuable if you’re currently unemployed. The trick is to demonstrate that to potential employers and generate enough interest to get them to call you for a possible job interview.
The fact that a lot of information is available about you online in various places might not be news to you. You might even know or suspect that employers check you out online after you apply to them. However, you might not know the extent of what is or can be done and its potential impact on your job search and chances for desirable employment. Technology is a two-edged sword: used wisely, it can be your friend; not wisely, your enemy.
Yves Lermusi, head of a company called Checkster, wrote an article in September 2011 called “Cyber-vetting’s Usage, Risk, and Future.” The article focused on cyber-vetting from an employer’s perspective, but you might want to pay attention from a job seeker’s perspective–whether you’re currently conducting a job search or might be in the future.
According to Mr. Lermusi, around 80% of employers currently search and track candidates’ online activities when they’re considering hiring someone. This includes online forums you participate in (ask and answer questions, etc.).
One problem Mr. Lermusi mentioned with cyber-vetting is that it can be done without your knowledge and can provide employers with access to data that leads to discrimination.
Here’s a quote from the article that might give you something more to think about: “Cyber-vetting will be used more and more by organizations, first to avoid surprises, and more as a digital background and fact-checking tool. Second, it will be used as a way to assess the expertise, motivation, and in some aspects the character of the candidates. Finally, it will expand into leveraging the collective intelligence that social network contains. We know that even if HR does not perform cyber-vetting, or admit to doing so, hiring managers will.”
This is definitely one of those situations where ignorance is not bliss. High-tech tools are increasing in sophistication and availability, and they will be used. The question is, will they be used for/by you or against you? At least to some extent, that’s up to you–how you manage your career, your job search and, ultimately, your life.
If you’re nowhere near retirement age yet (a number that keeps changing, by the way), you might not have given much thought to the possible impact the latest recession has made on the concept and timing of retirement. It’s something that you might want to think about, though, because ignoring it could be a recipe for disaster.
A recent article by Emily Brandon in US News & World Report lists several conditions that are affecting people’s retirement plans: unemployment, falling income, declining retirement benefits, few options to recoup losses, and increasing reliance on Social Security. Brandon notes that although the recession has affected all age groups, it has had the greatest impact on older adults. For those inclined to pessimism anyway, this is not good news! Being naturally an optimist, I tend to take a somewhat less gloomy outlook, but there’s no denying that the situation is challenging at best.
Just as an example: If people are putting off retirement longer because they feel they can’t afford to retire when they originally expected to, they’re staying in (or trying to stay in) their jobs; this means those jobs aren’t opening up for other would-be employees to fill. Another example is that people who are continuing to work longer are probably not indulging in the leisure-time activities they had planned to engage in during retirement, and that pull-back could affect others who work in the industries and regions where those activities would occur. It’s a ripple effect.
What can you do? First, don’t press the panic button! Seriously, knee-jerk reactions to potentially dire news can cause us to make unwise decisions that we could well live to regret. They can also prevent us from seeing and exploring possibilities that might improve our retirement situation–whether we’re nearing retirement age or still many years away from it. Wise career management definitely comes into play here, along with good financial sense. Impulsiveness can have a positive place in our lives, but probably not when it comes to preparing ourselves for retirement.