Job hunt trends for 2014 and beyond – what’s changed, what you can do to keep up

Do your New Year’s Resolutions include looking for a new job in 2014? Here’s some tips on how the game has changed, and what smart seekers are doing to stay ahead of the pack.

LinkedIn – the new gotta-have

A detailed, professional, connected, regularly-updated LinkedIn profile is no longer optional. It may not be officially mandatory, but it might as well be. It has become equal to, or even MORE important than your resume as a tool for potential employers and contacts to find and evaluate you. Read up on how LinkedIn works (there are online resources and books available), look at other people’s profiles, and think about how to present your unique combination of skills and value. Just as importantly, look at the profiles that leave you saying, “um, nah,” and think about why they failed to hook you.

LinkedIn offers automated help with completing your profile – take it. Make sure your names, dates, and qualifications are all correct, and that they match your resume. Recruiters and HR people check for discrepancies, and you don’t want to get caught making inconsistent claims. In fact, many recruiters prefer LinkedIn profiles over resumes for this reason; it’s harder to lie on your resume when it’s a public document.

Use a clear, professional-looking head or head-and-shoulders photo, with a simple background.

When looking through other people’s profiles, take note of overused words and cliches, and avoid them. You don’t want to blend in with the thousands of other “results-oriented team players” out there. Specific skills and specific achievements are your best bet.

Once you’ve got your profile up and running, keep it fresh by updating it regularly. Time slips away very quickly, and nothing’s more off-putting than a profile that someone obviously made, and then abandoned and forgot about, two years ago. Join discussion groups that are related to your areas of professional interest and participate in them. Give endorsements. Make connections. Post links to blogs and news items you think your colleagues would find interesting or helpful. Be a presence.

Stalking your potential employer/interviewer

Back before the Internet, interview tips would always suggest that you go look up your target company: get a copy of their annual report, go to the library and look up news articles on them, etc. Props to you if you actually did do that, but it’s a safe bet that most folks just didn’t have the time. Even if you did, there was no way to find out anything about the actual interviewer who’d be talking with you.

Now, in the world of Google and 24-hour Internet access, there’s no excuse not to. So you have another “mandatory requirement” if you want to be a stand-out candidate.

Check out the company’s website, but don’t stop there. Read discussions of the company by various analysts, business articles about them; get to know their technologies, their major competitors, their projects, their position in the market, their current challenges, etc. Google the person who’s interviewing you – you may find them listed as attending various professional conferences or involved in certain projects. Check them out on LinkedIn – what other positions have they held? What are their educational qualifications? What are their areas of expertise? Do they have any connections in common with you? It will help you understand “where they’re coming from”, and how best to communicate.

Use employer-review sites like GlassDoor to get a sense of what it’s like to work there, keeping in mind that discontented people tend to post more frequently than contented ones.

Using your connections actively

When you apply, check the company on LinkedIn, see if you know anyone who works there or are second-generation linked to them. Gather information, ask for positive boosts if appropriate, etc. Also get a sense of whether you DON’T want this job. Sometimes it’s empty for a good reason.

Go ahead and use the online job boards, but realize that you are doing it the hard way

Modern recruiting practices place a lot of obstacles between you and a hiring manager. Apply for a job you see on one of the job-clearinghouse websites like Monster or Workopolis and you’re up against massive numbers of applicants, and the automated resume-screening software that discards your resume long before a human ever looks at it. This is a very poor-odds way of making it into the winners’ circle. Wherever you can, look for ways to do an end-run around The Machine. Go in as a contract worker, network, get friends to “walk your resume in” and show it to hiring managers, etc. It not only improves your odds, it also allows you to feel more in control of the process of presenting yourself.

Track your applications and note the outcomes

There’s a lot of reasons to do this. If you’re using different versions of your resume, you can see which ones are getting you the best response. If you’re applying to a lot of jobs, details can start to run together. It’s very helpful to keep notes on how the interview went, who you spoke with, how long they said it would likely take them to make their decision. It’s also very important to copy and store the job description you applied to. Too often, when you get the call for an interview, the posting has been removed, and you’re left trying to remember what exactly you applied for. Recruiters also like it when you can say for certain whether you have applied for a particular job through another channel.

A simple spreadsheet will do, or you can use a commercially-available product like JibberJobber.

Manage your online presence

Go back and check on abandoned email accounts and profiles on sites and services you no longer use. Make sure that unused accounts have not been hacked, or embarrassingly stale profiles are not your public face in places where potential employers might see them. Google yourself and ensure that there’s nothing offputting out there; use “View as” on Facebook to see what others will see when they check.

And don’t forget the human connection

Technology has changed the way the game looks, but it’s still ultimately all about people. Look for ways to meet people, exchange ideas, find ways to help one another out, make an impression. You never know which conversation will lead to your next big opportunity!

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