Technology & Your Job Search–Some “Gotchas”

No one is likely to deny that we live an an age suffused with technology. Unless you live on a deserted island, you’ll probably encounter some aspects of technology every day. Your job search is no exception to that “rule.”

These days, even not-too-savvy job seekers are probably using some form of technology in their job search, such as a basic computer or maybe a smart phone. That’s not to say that use of technology in a job search couldn’t have some “gotchas” to trip you up and keep you from achieving your goal of landing a new job.

Job Search Technology “Gotchas” to Watch Out For

The following are just a few of the technology-related tools and techniques that could derail or at least delay your job search:

  • Identity theft: This might be rare, but when you use a computer to download information pertinent to your job search, you should be careful about the sites you visit for that purpose and careful about the kind of information you provide. (Actually, that’s a good point for non-job search activities, too.)
  • Bogus job postings: Sometimes unscrupulous people have been known to post ads and even conduct “job interviews” for positions that don’t exist, in hopes of luring unsuspecting individuals into get-rich-quick schemes and other activities designed to line their pockets at your expense.
  • Smart phones for submitting resumes: Many companies don’t have their recruiting process optimized for use by smart phones. If you try to upload your resume via smart phone, you might encounter much more difficulty than you expect. Sometimes it’s troublesome enough to convince you to give up in frustration.

Problems Encountered in Online Job Searching

The last point I mentioned above leads into information I found in an article titled “3 Reasons Your Online Job Search Is Failing Miserably” by Martha White. In her article White indicates three reasons that people’s job search might go badly (there are a lot more than three overall, as you can probably imagine!):

  1. You use your smart phone instead of a computer: As the article says, “Jibe, a company that makes technology for job recruiters, finds that a full 20% of job applicants would give up on an online application if they couldn’t do it entirely on their phones. But unfortunately, it also finds that more than a quarter of big companies don’t have a single part of their hiring process set up to work well on a smartphone.”
  2. You rely on Twitter and Facebook: LinkedIn is the medium of choice for recruiters–97% of them, in fact. “A new study from social recruiting company Bullhorn Reach finds that only around 20% of recruiters use Facebook to find job candidates; about the same percentage use Twitter.”
  3. You give up too easily: “Jibe’s research finds that nearly a quarter of candidates will give up on applying for any jobs at a company if they have a single bad experience with completing an online job application.” Also, the research indicated that “more than half of job-seekers say they’d be deterred if an online application didn’t let them upload their resume”–that kind of reaction could keep you from getting a job you want, because someone more persistent could knock you out of the running. According to Jibe’s CEO, failure to be able to upload your resume shouldn’t keep you from submitting it. He suggests, “If you can’t upload your resume, call or email the company even if the job listing says not to.”

I’d add at least one online job search “failure” to the above list: conducting a largely (if not entirely) passive job search that involves things like posting your resume on a bunch of job boards and waiting for the phone to ring. Not going to happen in this lifetime!

Making Technology & Your Job Search Work

Ultimately, you need to make technology a practical and effective part of your job search. Understand its limitations as well as its potential value and structure your job search to take both of those factors into consideration.

Job Search Resource “Disappears”

Quite sometime ago, I did a post about a job search resource called Preptel, which aimed to help job seekers prepare their resumes for the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) gauntlet–making them keyword-rich, organizing sections appropriately, and so on. It seemed like a good resource at the time. Unfortunately, Preptel is about to disappear.

A recent announcement indicated that after three years of trying, the company has been unable to turn a profit and has reluctantly decided to call it quits. What does that mean for you as a current or future job seeker?

What Job Search Value Did Preptel Offer?

For starters, it focused our attention more sharply on the whole issue of keywords and the growing use of ATS as a tool to screen (weed-out) job seekers during the employment process. Unless you can identify a way to deliver your resume directly to a hiring manager, you could find yourself being ATS-screened and eliminated from consideration before you get to square one.

Preptel provided a tool for trying to align your resume with specific postings you planned to pursue. You could upload your resume and have Preptel compare it to the job posting, then receive an evaluation of how near (or far) it was from where it might need to be in order to get you considered as a candidate.

I did have a few reservations about some of the hoops you would have to jump through to get anywhere near a close match without having a resume that was ridiculously worded and hard for a human being to read, but I thought the potential usefulness outweighed that possible disadvantage. However, it now becomes a moot point, since Preptel will no longer be a job search resource.

Alternative Job Search Resources

You might ask what your alternatives are now that Preptel is disappearing. Some of those alternatives aren’t earth-shakingly new. For example:

  1. Review and revitalize your network before you need to start mining it for help in a job search. Hint: A good book to read on effective networking, although not new, is Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.
  2. Avoid the impersonal ATS route if at all possible and practical. Get to know people where you want to work and become known by them as a potentially valuable asset. Use your network to develop desired connections you don’t already have.
  3. Research the companies whose postings have caught your attention and interest; then tailor your submission to each company’s requirements as much as you legitimately can. Assume that in this case you will run up against an ATS screening, so diligently identify and use all the relevant keywords and phrases you can to help you navigate that obstacle.
  4. Look at the areas where you might not be as strong as you’d like in comparison with what the company is asking for and determine whether (or how) you can try to upgrade your qualifications in those areas. Ideally, take steps to accomplish that before you embark on a full-scale job search.

No Substitute for Smart Job Search Techniques

Preptel and other high-tech proposals to help solve your job search challenges could never eliminate all the obstacles from your path, anyway. To think they could is self-delusional at best.

In today’s challenging employment market and the increasing reliance on technology to deal with it, you still need to use smart job search techniques that stem from who you are, what you can offer, what you view as your potential value and/or limitations, etc.. Also consider how much time, thought and energy you’re willing and able to put into all aspects of the job search.

Sorry, but no one said it would be easy–or if they did, they lied!

Job Search Tools–Waste of Time or Worthwhile?

It makes good sense to keep an eye out for new job search tools that could help you manage your job search–even your ongoing career–more effectively. In other words, tools that save you time, effort, frustration, and so on. We live in a technology age, so it stands to reason technology in one form or another should offer you very useful tools for your job search, right? Maybe…maybe not.

Job Search Tools that Fail to Fulfill Potential

Numerous companies have come up with and/or promoted the use of certain services as having an exciting role in job searching–whether to employers who will pay to use them to source candidates or to job seekers who hope the services will give them a leg-up on the competition. However, as you might expect if you think seriously about it, the likelihood that all of them or even most of them will actually prove valuable to many job seekers is not guaranteed great. What’s sad is, if you put too much faith in these and spend a lot of time and energy trying to use them to jump-start your job search, you might not only be disappointed at the results (or lack thereof) but also have cost yourself valuable time you could have spent more productively.

I just read a “roundup” item on by John Zappe and Todd Raphael, called “Not Just a Spanking but a Hard Spanking,” that references a post on Talent HQ by Jason Buss, titled “The Top 7 Recruit Fails of 2012.” Zappe and Raphael questioned a couple of Buss’s choices for failed recruiting methods, but presumably not the others. Here’s the list, in brief, with the worst “failure” in #1 position:

  1. Facebook
  2. BranchOut
  3. Talent Communities
  4. Social Recruiting
  5. Taleo Acquisition
  6. Mobile Recruiting
  7. Recruiting with Pinterest

Of course, this was put together from the perspective of employers/recruiters, but it’s one of those topics that should still interest you as a job seeker or potential job seeker. The more you know about what’s working for employers and what’s not, the better armed you are to conduct a well-thought-out job search campaign.

What is a Worthwhile Job Search Tool?

If you’re looking for tools that will do most of the work for you in a job search, you’re probably wasting time. I have yet to see any of the promoted tools ranked high enough to do that. Any that provide verifiable benefits seem to expect you to do some actual work yourself! If the tools and techniques you’ve been using recently aren’t producing good results, maybe it’s time to reexamine what you’re using and check out others that you haven’t gotten to yet. Just don’t jump on the bandwagon and ride it happily along without evaluating the time you spend on the tool against the payoff you receive from it.

Researching companies, making a case for your value even where there are no advertised openings, becoming visibly active in your field/industry, establishing a strong and professional online presence…these are the kinds of tools that so far have been widely acknowledged as a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.

So What About LinkedIn?

While I have some concerns about the course LinkedIn seems to be taking lately (I’m still not a fan of the new “Endorsements” provision, for example), I still believe it’s a potentially valuable online networking and job search tool, if you use it wisely. For example, establish some real relationships with key people in your LinkedIn network, rather than just making it a numbers game. (“I have 500 connections.” “Well, I can beat your 500–I have 1,000!”) I don’t believe LinkedIn is going away any time soon, which I do think is a good thing. The trick will be to find out how to make it work well for you.

Blogging as a Job Search Tool

Chances are, you read (follow) one or more blogs on a fairly regular basis. However, do you publish your own blog in a field of professional interest–that is, on a topic related to an area in which you would like to work? Or are already working but want or need to make a change? If you are not publishing a blog, you might be missing out on a potentially powerful job search tool. Several reasons for doing that come to mind, and a few of them were underscored in a book I just finished reading: Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. I will share snippets of the book’s points in the comments that follow.

Why Use Blogging as a Job Search Tool?

Offhand, I can think of at least 3 reasons to make blogging a part of your job search action plan:

  1. Establishing a strong online presence can play a key role in making you visible to companies who will be looking for people like you, and blogging is one relatively easy and cost-effective method for doing that.
  2. You can maintain a blog even after you land your next job and keep yourself top-of-mind with the kinds of people you want to stay in touch with, yet not send out a signal to your current (new) employer that says, “Hey, I’m job searching again.”
  3. If you link to your blog in a variety of places, you can easily increase your visibility and credibility with minimal additional effort. For example, link to and from your online resume, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook page (if you have one for your professional side), and so on. Some of that can be done almost automatically (set up once and left to run each time you publish a blog post).

What Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters Says about Blogging

These are just a few of the gems contained in the book:

  • “If you have a blog, post on it frequently with your name and title. Add descriptors like your current projects, technical expertise, and examples of anything you have done that shows up in the public record….Be specific with your expertise.”
  • “If you don’t have a blog, offer to guest post at blogs that discuss your industry and your metro area.”
  • If you have your own web site (something the book highly recommends), “a blog is a powerful addition to your web site….Having your own blog gives you credibility and a forum to demonstrate your expertise. If you’re not an expert, you can become your industry’s oracle by linking to other bloggers, articles, news sources, and web sites. You build your credibility by highlighting what others are doing.”
  • “…your blog is a billboard on the Internet.” One way it can help you find a new job is by increasing your visibility with search engines, which according to the book “love blogs.”

When to Start Using Blogging as a Job Search Tool

If you haven’t already started, now would be a good time! It’s not that hard to do (as the saying goes, it’s not rocket science–unless you’re a rocket scientist), and the sooner you start, the sooner you can begin building a presence–gaining traction–in the area you want to be known for, work in, and so forth. It also doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, or even close to that. How many other job search aids can make that claim–potentially high value provided for relatively little effort and almost no money?

Checklists for Your Job Search

Whether or not you consider yourself a well-organized person, it’s likely that adopting a relatively organized approach to your current or next job search will produce worthwhile benefits. The process of finding and capturing a new job has become more and more complex in recent years, and that trend appears likely to continue into the future–possibly even at a faster rate than it has done in the past. Unless you have an encyclopedic mind and can also manage multiple, sometimes conflicting priorities at a time without missing something, a degree of organization is essential to a successful job search. That’s true whether you’re a senior executive or a recent college graduate with limited business experience.

Why use checklists for your job search?

Checklists enable you to accomplish several desirable goals, including the following:

  • Lay out all the critical steps you need to take and develop an approximate order and timeline for completing them.
  • Identify “missing pieces”: possibly useful actions you might not otherwise have considered.
  • Track your progress and spot actions that haven’t been completed yet but need to be done soon.

They’re also customizable to your preferred style of operating. You can make them as simple or as involved as you choose, because you’re the only one who is going to use them. If challenges arise and you need to reschedule an item on your list, no one is going to hassle you about that. As long as you’re fine with it, it’s okay.

What kind of checklists should you use?

As mentioned above, you get to choose how you develop and use your job search checklist. You can design your own or get ideas from lists that others have used and tailor them to fit your needs. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about the type of checklist. Personally and as a business owner, I like project checklists that give me a column for the target completion date and another column to check the items as I complete them. That style can work well for a job search, too. You can also make use of a number of high-tech tools, including resources like, to help you manage the list.

You can and probably will want to incorporate a variety of items in your job search checklist. The following are useful to include:

  • Source of the position you’re pursuing (online posting, referral from a friend or colleague, etc.)
  • Company, title and brief description of the position
  • Date you submitted your resume and cover letter or other materials
  • Return contact(s) you received (phone, email, letter, etc.)
  • Dates of interviews scheduled and completed

The beauty of using checklists for your job search is that it helps you manage diverse important tasks even while other demands on your time and attention preclude devoting your full time to the job search. It’s easy to keep tabs on what’s happening, what you have and haven’t done, and so on, without making yourself crazy over it. Job searching can be enough of a hassle without subjecting yourself to that!

Job Search Tools: Preptel

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.

TagCrowd as a Job Search Tool

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.

Employer Access to Your Social Media

The big explosion of concern and outrage over reports some employers have been “requesting” (more like demanding) that job seekers provide their Facebook password has led to several states considering legislation to make the practice illegal. Even if these laws–and more like them–actually pass, they might not protect your privacy as much as you think. A short article by Gloria Goodale, “Give me your password,” explains why this might be the case (The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, April 23, 2012).

Why Withholding Your Facebook Password Might Not Help

According to the article, “there are many ways to get information from applicants’ social media without demanding their passwords” (a statement made by Kabrina Krebel Chang, an assistant professor at Boston University.) What are some of those ways? For starters, suppose some of your friends of friends of friends…are connected to, even working at, companies where you are applying and interviewing. There’s apparently nothing to stop those people from giving the company access to your Facebook page. Chang also points out that if there aren’t direct Facebook friends, you might be a friend of other pages or have liked other pages that will give people access to information about you.

Other Routes Employers Might Take to Get Your Info

Charles Palmer, executive director of the Center for Advanced Entertainment & Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University, is quoted in the article as saying that “human resources departments will simply switch to sending ‘friend requests’ to applicants….It’s a little less overt and completely legal….” Of course, if you receive such a request, you’re free to ignore or decline to accept it. However, it’s nearly impossible to predict the effect this might have on your candidacy at that company.

Ongoing Awareness of Your Social Media Presence is Crucial

As I’ve said before, you need to be alert to what you are posting on social media sites, what you are commenting on (and how), and a host of other considerations related to your online/social media presence. That’s true whether or not you’re engaged in a job search at this moment. Basically, anything you post/share online could somehow become public knowledge, whether you know it or not. You can’t rely on legislation to protect you and prevent employers from mining your “private” online interactions. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility. Yes, you can maintain restricted-access settings for your Facebook and other accounts, but under certain circumstances that might be inadequate. Better still, of course, you can refrain from posting/commenting anything anywhere that you wouldn’t want to have come back on you. If you’ve taken these basic steps, the rest might be “in the lap of the gods.” Full control or protection is probably an unattainable goal.

Applicant Tracking Systems and Your Resume

Earlier this month, I briefly referenced the topic of applicant tracking systems (ATS) in another post, but I thought it merited further exploration, especially since I keep reading conflicting opinions as to who is using or not using it, how they’re using it, why or whether job seekers should be concerned, and so on. In our technology-driven age, it’s hard to know if there’s any single “right” answer to these kinds of situations, but hiding your head in the sand and hoping it will all go away is probably not the solution.

What is an Applicant Tracking System–What Does It Do?

Basically, as I understand it, an ATS is used by companies to manage all their job openings and screen the resumes that come in, so they only have to really look at a select few compared to the total number received. One way the system helps them do this is by searching for keyword or keyword phrases of particular interest. Okay, you’re probably familiar with the concept of keywords; it’s been around a long time now. In fact, those of us who write resumes for you make an effort to identify and use all the keywords and phrases that seem to be relevant to your experience and that appear to match some or all of the qualifications your target employers are seeking.

However, according to an article by Meridith Levinson, called “5 Insider Secrets for Beating Applicant Tracking Systems” (quoting from an interview with Jon Ciampi, CEO of Preptel), “what matters most to applicant tracking systems is the uniqueness or ‘rarity’ of the keyword or the keyword phrase….That is, the keywords and phrases must be specific to a particular job ad.” Farther on in the same article, Levinson notes that what shows up to recruiters when they see your “resume” isn’t much like the way your original submission looked. That’s because an ATS pulls data from resumes into a database according to pre-set instructions and apparently can make any number of mistakes along the way. Comforting to you as a job seeker? Not much!

Chances of “Gaming” the Applicant Tracking Systems

Can you “game” an ATS? I’m not sure I know the answer to that one, but I suspect two things: (1) it wouldn’t be easy, if possible; (2) someone (maybe a lot of someones) has probably already tried or will try soon. What most of the careers experts I know recommend is that you still aim to incorporate into your resume the keywords and phrases most likely to be of interest to the employers you’re targeting. (If you can access inside information on what those might be, more power to you!) Some say you should avoid using specialized format items such as tables and graphics because applicant tracking systems don’t read them well and will overlook or mess up your carefully formatted information.

Of course, it would almost certainly be best if you can find a way to circumvent all applicant tracking systems by going directly to the hiring manager–or, at the very least, someone who has a direct pipeline to him or her and can move your resume to the desired person without going through a tracking system. Just don’t expect the companies to make it easy for you to do that!

Video Interviewing Gets Bigger

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.