What’s Different – and What’s the Same – in Today’s Job Search Game

03 Sep 2018


You haven’t looked in a job for 10 years. But for a variety of reasons, you’ve decided to get back into the job search game… and you’re noticing that things have changed.

From LinkedIn profiles to targeted keywords, resume writing is a whole new ballgame – and a confusing one, at that. Our internet-centric world has made job searching trickier than in the past.

So what do you need to do?

We’ve compiled a cheat sheet to help get you up to speed on the latest job search trends and strategies.

It's (Still) All About Who You Know

Networking is still king.

Because of the limits of faceless online anonymity, the personal meet-and-greet is as important as ever. Keywords – even “the right keywords” – will never take the place of a handshake and eye contact. Having someone personally vouch for you can often preclude anything in your resume.

“Job search continues to be personal,” HR expert Laura Handrick tells The Job Network. “People don’t hire from paper, they hire people they trust will do a great job in the role.”

And hiring isn’t the only thing that’s moved away from paper.

Today, most open positions aren’t even posted on traditional sources like online job boards or classifieds: According to Forbes, up to 80% of all available positions are nestled within the so-called “hidden job market.”

These positions aren’t advertised in traditional sources like online classifieds or job boards because companies are increasingly avoiding open online applications that can lead to a lengthy (and expensive) hiring process. Instead, they’re using recruiting firms, headhunters, and even referrals from their own employees. This means job seekers often have to rely on networking to find out about available positions.

But what if your network has shrunk (read: You’ve burned some bridges)?

Or what if it wasn’t very wide to begin with (read: You’ve never particularly enjoyed those meet-and-greet social functions)?

Start by contacting anyone and everyone you know or worked with in the past – from employers and coworkers to clients or suppliers to friends and college roommates. Mention you’re looking for a new gig, and don’t be afraid to send them your resume. You never know who’s aware of those hidden jobs.

Then reach out to people you don’t necessarily know. Use social media platforms like LinkedIn to find like professionals and invite them into your circle, and to join a few associations with strong social presence. And really, if you’re not already on LinkedIn, stop reading now and take care of that!

Leveraging LinkedIn

These days, LinkedIn membership is really not an option. In addition to establishing a network of folks who might be able to help you in your search, you can use the platform itself to find advertised positions.

New to LinkedIn? Not sure how to leverage your account to help in your search? Here are a few pointers:

1. Your Profile

Unlike your resume – which is a static document once you send it out – your LinkedIn profile is a living, breathing, and ever-evolving creation. You can (and should) change it regularly to keep it current.

Think twice about publicizing your job search, though. For one, that might not be information you’d like to share with your current employer (who’s likely tracking staffers’ profiles). For another – and possibly more important – reason, announcing the fact that you’re looking for a job could make you vulnerable. Recruiters shy away from desperate-looking professionals and have even been known to even weed out profiles containing the word “seeking.”

Thinking about leaving your current job off your profile? Consider this: JobHunt reports that this action could drop your ranking and push your profile “several pages lower than what it would have been.” Of course, if your current job isn’t something you’d like to publicize, by all means omit it.

2. Your Keywords

Keywords have become a big deal in today’s job market. TopResume tells us, “The algorithm behind LinkedIn looks at keyword density to rank your profile in a search.” Sure, this might sound daunting, but the casual consumer does essentially the same thing: When you search for ANYTHING online, you want only the most applicable results.

Same goes for recruiters. They are looking for candidates with very specific skills, and they target their searches to find only those who fit the bill. This means that your LinkedIn profile needs to include those target words. Be sure to use the exact wording of those desired skillsets included in the job posting. Try this hack: Copy the position description into a free word cloud app. WordItOut is particularly user-friendly and lets you visualize a summary of the qualifications that the posting highlights most.

Meanwhile, JobHunt claims that “the keywords in the Job Title field (an area highly indexed within LinkedIn’s search algorithm) can draw additional traffic to your profile.” And adding the sought-after keywords in your Skills & Endorsements section can also increase your page ranking and profile views.

3. Your Photo

Definitely post a current, professional-looking headshot. Recruiters tend to think that profiles without photos look suspicious. Plus, LinkedIn flags photo-less profiles as “incomplete,” which can negatively impact your search rankings. One statistic even claims that profiles with photos get up to 21 times more views.

4. Your Search

Use the “Jobs” tab to search by keyword, country, and even zip code. Use “Advanced Search” to refine your search by date posted, experience level, specific location, job function, company, and industry. If you have a specific company in mind, visit the company profile to see if they’ve posted job openings on their LinkedIn pages. LinkedIn can also save your job searches and send you emails about new job postings.

5. Your Contacts

Before applying, secure an introduction so someone will be watching for your application. In addition to linking with colleagues from your current endeavors, join your university alumni group to connect with names from your past.

6. Your Connections

Remember that old party game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?” That’s kind of how LinkedIn works. Your contacts – or connections – are organized into  a hierarchy of first-degree connections (people you know directly), second-degree connections (people who have connections in common), and so on.

Ask your first-degree connections if they can introduce you. Additionally, you could see if any of your LinkedIn contacts works there or knows someone who works there.

Once you’ve applied, don’t just sit back and worry that your application got lost in cyberspace. LinkedIn makes it possible to find contact information for the actual hiring manager, using the search bar at the top of the page. Click “People,” then input your target company name in the “Current companies” filter pane for a list of employees.

Social Media Presence

Have you Googled yourself today?

Since you’re already updating your LinkedIn profile, it’s a good time to consider your online reputation.

Recruiters will be looking you up on Google – you should do the same. Tweet this

“Google yourself once a week,” career consultant Mark Anthony Dyson recommends. “Take note of any results that tarnish your image – including those that may be about other people who happen to share your name.”

In fact, The Job Network cites statistics that 70% of employers report screening candidates via social media before offering positions. Recruiter.com even claims this tops 90%. Add to that reports that 54% of employers say they have chosen another candidate after viewing the applicant’s social media profile and another 57% report being less likely to even interview someone they can’t find online, and the implications are clear: You must be active online to be competitive in the job market.

And being active is more than just setting up your LinkedIn profile.

Sure, that’s a good first step. And keeping it current is another. Then stay alert and engaged in your industry by keeping the conversation going with your online colleagues.

Not sure what to post? Consider:

  • Responses to posts you enjoyed reading
  • Articles you’ve recently published
  • Awards or accolades you’ve received

Modernize Your Resume

Today’s job recruiter spends maybe six seconds reviewing a resume. You read that correctly. And six seconds isn’t a lot of time. You need to “impress the judges” from the get-go with relevant details they can’t turn away.

So how do you do that? What are the new “rules” of resume writing? What’s changed over the past decade or so since you last actively sent out your resume? For one, you’ll be doing a lot more fill-in-the-blank online application forms these days. Still, keeping these tips in mind will beef up your resume so yours is sharp when you hand over a copy during a discussion about hidden jobs.

1. Forego Your Physical Address

Gone are the days of including your physical address. Hiring managers don’t send job offers through the mail anymore, so they don’t need to know where you live. They do, however, need to have an easy way to find you to schedule a meeting or even offer you the job. Make it easy for them by providing your email address, your phone number, and (yes, you guessed it!) your LinkedIn profile link.

2. Choose Your Email Address Wisely

If it’s been long enough, your last resume might not have even included an email address. That’s a must now – as is using an adult email address. Your resume is all about first impressions. Can you really expect a hiring manager to contact you via [email protected]? Even if you’re emotionally invested in that email address you set up in college, get yourself a professional-sounding handle for all your job search communications.

3. Give Yourself a Title

Add a concise (two- or three-word) position title that summarizes your skills as a professional. Run this just underneath your contact information as a quick way for recruiters to know what you do (or what you want to do for their company).

4. Use Plenty of White Space

Use plenty of cushion around the key ideas you want to be particularly noticeable. Too much copy overwhelms the reader. If your resume is hard to read, recruiters won’t bother. This means that you shouldn’t cram your resume onto one page. Keep as much white space as you need, flowing onto two (or even three) pages in a very readable font, ideally at least 11-point type.

5. Take Action

Use strong verbs and be concise. If you’re stuck using the same mundane words, check out this amazingly comprehensive compilation of resume-worthy verbs from The Muse. Describe your job responsibilities with the concrete skills you’ve honed over your tenure in the position. Better yet, detail your accomplishments and how your successes help the company. Provide specific measurements whenever possible.

While that resume tip hasn’t changed over time, there are a couple “accomplishments” you should omit at this point. Don’t claim to be an expert in Word and Excel. These “skills” are assumed at this point. And don’t state, “References available upon request.” That, too, is a given in today’s hiring world.

6. Mirror the Lingo

Many hiring managers try to save time by using software like an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan applications for keywords and weed out the ones that don’t belong. Estimates vary, but reports indicated that more than three-fourths of resumes never even make it across recruiters’ desks – the ATS rejects them outright for missing the right keywords. Sounds a bit daunting… all the more reason to make sure that your resume, just like your LinkedIn profile, contains some of “the right words.” Match the exact wording used in the job post. JobScan is a handy way to compare the content of your resume with the language of the position listing to help earn you a nod.

7. Keep it Scannable

Employers will scan your document in a “Z pattern.” They start at the top left, scan to the top right, then move quickly down to the lower left, and end on the lower right (remember, this only takes about six seconds!). So, the strategy is to keep the important details toward the top left (above the top third of the page) and the extra niceties toward the lower right.

8. Ditch the Objective

In the past, many professionals were encouraged to add a few sentences to the top of their resumes that described their ideal positions. But let’s face it: Recruiters today don’t care about what kind of work you want. Instead, you need to convince them of why you’re the best person for the job at hand. Replace your old objective statement of “Avid bird-watcher in search of pet-sitting opportunity” with a professional profile of “Animal lover with 20 years of providing the best in-home care for pets.”

9. Highlight Key Skills

What are the 8-10 main skills you most want to highlight about yourself? Think of the tasks you complete regularly and how you most help your company; when possible, include things you can quantify.

Another “new” trend is to include a two-column list under your professional profile. Keep in mind that resume format options are infinite and extremely personal. And your resume, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. If your ideal job is a straight-laced corporate position, opting for a more traditional black-and-white resume. A role in the arts might lend itself more to a bolder look.

Regardless: Clean, concise, and easy to read are always the best choices.

Erin Larson 
With a Bachelor of Science in Language Arts from Georgetown University and 20 years of editorial experience, Erin brings a passion for words and well-crafted writing to every project. As a writer, she revels in the opportunity to create vibrant original copy and rejuvenate tired text. She has written on a range of topics, in a variety of styles, and for an array of platforms. As an editor, proofreader, translator, and trusted second set of eyes, she has helped clients from around the world enhance their writing. A self-proclaimed editorial perfectionist, Erin once canceled a credit card because of a grammatically incorrect form letter, which she edited and promptly sent back to the company. (Incidentally, she wasn’t surprised to receive no response.)

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