What's 'In' and 'Out' on the Job Hunt
by 'The Creative Group'
A Rolodex filled with business cards.
The Sunday want ads.
These job search tools have all gone the way of the dodo. But are you still using tactics that are similarly slated for extinction?
Like all trends, those that define the job search change over time -- sometimes often, and sometimes dramatically. To give yourself the best possible chance of landing a new position, you need to use the most up-to-date approaches. And if you haven't launched a job hunt in several years, you could be behind the times.
Here are some job search tactics that are "in" and "out":
Out:Blanketing local employers with a résumé and cover letter addressed "To whom it may concern."
In:Researching prospective employers and applying to companies where your skills and interests match their needs. In a competitive job market, a generic résumé won't grab a hiring manager's attention. The best applications are highly targeted to the opportunity. That means not only researching the appropriate contact so you can address the hiring manager by name but also detailing how your skills and experience can meet the potential employer's exact needs.
Out:Stilted language in application materials (e.g., "Please find my résumé attached in response to the job posting ...").
In:More natural prose that provides a sense of your personality. Soft skills are more important than ever, and employers want to get a sense of your personality to ensure you will mesh well with existing staff members. So use your résumé and cover letter as a way to show the hiring manager who you are. But keep in mind that these documents should still remain professional -- you can get your personality across without resorting to shorthand, slang or "text speak."
Out:Using unusual résumé formats to hide employment gaps.
In:Filling potential gaps through volunteer or temporary work. Some job seekers have used functional résumés to downplay gaps in their work history. But this format -- in which the person's skills are listed at the top of the document, and the work history is truncated or omitted entirely -- could raise red flags by making it seem like you have something to hide. Today's hiring managers realize that many talented people are out of work right now through no fault of their own, so don't feel like you need to hide a recent period of unemployment. Instead, demonstrate that you've remained professionally engaged while searching for a new position by taking on volunteer or temporary work.
Out:Overly detailed résumés.
In:Streamlined résumés that list relevant accomplishments. Hiring managers don't have much time to devote to your résumé, so you need to make a positive impression right away. The best way to do so is to cut out unnecessary information from your document -- for example, accomplishments from a job you held two decades ago, the clubs you belonged to in college (unless you're a recent graduate) or that your references are available upon request. Focus on the skills you have that match the employer's requirements and, in particular, bottom-line contributions you've made in previous roles.
Out:A narrow focus in your job search.
In:A broad view of how your skills might be useful in various roles. In today's job market, you may need to be creative to land a new position. Think about the skills you possess and how they could be applied in new ways or in an entirely new position or field. For example, your experience spearheading a product launch could position you for a role as a project manager.
In:Networking constantly using tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as in person. The best way to find a job remains through word of mouth. And, in the recession, a lead or referral from a contact can give you the edge you need to land a new position. Online networking websites make it easy for you to keep in touch with members of your network, but keep in mind that face-to-face interaction is still important. Offer to treat people to coffee on occasion to catch up and talk about your search.
Out:A set reference list.
In:A customized reference list for each opportunity. Like your résumé and cover letter, your reference list should be fluid and targeted to the opportunity. When providing this information to a prospective employer, think of who can speak best about your most relevant skills for that position, not who has the most impressive job title. For example, if you are interviewing for a management position, have the hiring manager reach out to individuals you've supervised in the past.
Out:Ending the interview by asking when they'll be contacting you.
In:Ending the interview by asking for the job on a trial basis. It never hurts to be proactive. If you feel the employment interview has gone well, don't be afraid to ask if you can prove yourself on a temporary basis. You'll demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job and desire to hit the ground running.
The fundamentals of the job search -- reaching out to employers and making a positive impression -- haven't changed. But the tools for doing so are different today than even just a few years ago. Make sure you understand the current trends to maximize your success on the job hunt.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals with a variety of firms on a project basis. For more information, visit http://www.creativegroup.com/.