Oh no! Your company has just gone through a merger. The results of the last quarter are in, and they aren’t good. There has been a leadership change in your department. You’ve just been acquired by private equity! There are countless reasons why job seekers start to look for a new opportunity. Some reasons are unavoidable, some are a long time coming, and sometimes it just happens overnight, and in a moment you are no longer working.
Recruiting Top Talent Around the World
As co-owner of an executive search firm for the past 15 years, I am 100% retained by organizations to help them recruit top talent that they are not able to find for themselves. In this capacity, I’ve worked with hundreds of executives at companies around the globe, including over thirty US states, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, and Japan. What I don’t do is market (“rep”) job seekers to help them find new opportunities. I represent employers. I make this distinction because it is important to note that it is not my business to find jobs for job seekers, per se. I simply have had many opportunities to understand what is grabbing the attention of employers around the globe, as I represent my customers. That being said, due to the experience I’ve gained, I’m often asked to share my opinions on job seeking with friends, family members, neighbors, and my professional contacts, during times in which they need help.
So, I’ve had the pleasure over the years to help some wonderfully talented professionals get their job search back on track. In these activities, I’ve heard every scenario you can think of as to why candidates are seeking new opportunities. Of course, the best time to look for a new job is when you have a job, but the bottom line is that bad things can happen to good people, and I’m happy to help when I can. So I’ve decided to document some simple job-seeking advice that I give most consistently. Keep in mind, the onus is on you, the job seeker, to manage your career. You can and should ask for help from a recruiter, or a friend, but at the end of the day, you must take control for yourself!
My Recommendations for You
Assuming you’ve prepared a solid resume and are on the path to finding a new position, below are my Top 6 simple job seeking tips:
1. Update LinkedIn (or Xing, Viadeo, etc.)
This almost goes without saying, but if you are not active on LinkedIn or another professional networking site, start now! If you are a professional in the United States, you should have a Linkedin profile, and you should be using it regularly (this may be Xing or Viadeo in other countries). What does it mean to be active? You must:
a. Add all of your skills — as many as you can think of, as you never know what keyword a prospective employer is going to be looking for.
b. Add all of your jobs and responsibilities to the career history, and highlight your achievements. This is one place where it’s okay to showcase yourself without looking ostentatious.
c. Don’t overlook adding your interests and volunteer work to the profile, as you never know what a Hiring Manager may key in on — maybe you both coach youth basketball, and that could be an area where rapport is first developed.
d. Request LinkedIn references from coworkers, clients, and managers; return the favor, and give references!
e. Ask to make connections with other professionals (you should have at least 200-500 connections).
f. Join local, national and even international groups in your area of expertise; network and socialize within those groups by adding content and opinion to the community.
g. Last but not least, add a current profile picture — above all other activities, this is the one that shows you are active on LinkedIn, more than anything else. Your picture should be recent and professional, and don’t be afraid to smile! It’s a social media world, and you must use it to your advantage.
2. Be Proactive
Instead of asking. “Who has an open job?”, train yourself to ask instead, “Where do I want to work?” Essentially, you can either be reactive or proactive in your search. When I ask job seekers how they are managing their search, a common answer is that they’ve been applying online, and they’re not seeing any activity. I tell them I’m not surprised, and I follow up with the question, “Where have you applied?” At this point, it often becomes obvious that many cannot remember where they’ve even sent their resume! This is being reactive, and it cedes control over your career to someone else. I recommend being more proactive, by starting your job search with research. Educate yourself on who the fastest growing companies in your market are, which companies have been noted as top workplaces, what are the largest public employers in the area, what are the largest privately-held employers, what companies are similar to your current or most recent company, and last but not least, what are your favorite brands, products, and services which are produced or provided in your area? After you’ve conducted this research, you should have a list of at least 50-100 organizations that you would consider working for. This is a lot of options! At this point, you will also have a comprehensive knowledge of the business climate in your market, and with this information you can create a spreadsheet to organize and track your activities. Each day, you can work a new angle and record your “wins” and where you need help. The job boards and career pages of these organizations now become leads for you to dig into further. You can ask yourself, what friends, family members or neighbors work at these companies? It’s okay to reach out and ask for help, as long as you are specific in what you need.
3. The Data Is There
As referenced above, job boards are your leads! Sure you can apply online if you’d like, it’s not going to hurt, in fact, it’s probably required by the employer for legal reasons, but don’t be afraid to take it a step further. The data is there for you to use to your advantage. Example: You’ve applied to ABC Company for a Manager position. Ask the question, who do I know at ABC Company? Now, check LinkedIn — odds are you will not only find a friend of a friend, an old colleague, or a family acquaintance, but also the Human Resources or Recruiting contact who likely posted the job in the first place! You can now reach out to your contacts and say, “Hey friend, as I have recently applied to your employer’s open Manager position, can you recommend me to Ms. or Mr. Human Resources?” What happens now is Mr. or Ms. HR has not only received a recommendation for you from someone they probably trust, but that individual can also access your online application, which includes your updated resume. In addition, they can easily go check out your shiny new LinkedIn profile to learn more about you. They now have at least three data points for you, versus only one. This is how job seekers use the data and technology to their advantage. Rest assured, they will probably check your personal social media activity as well, so be aware of what you are sharing on each of those platforms.
4. A.I. Is Here
Employers are required by law to track all applicants, and to do this they employ software called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These can be stand-alone systems or modules of an enterprise-wide HR Management System. As mentioned above, you probably will have to apply online at some point, and that application will be input into the ATS. Why is this important to know? It’s important, because companies are not only using these systems for compliance reasons but they’re also using them to manage an incredible volume of applicants. As an example of this volume, I recently posted a position in a major southern city and received 229 applicants in just two days! Applicants are being entered into a system alongside an extraordinarily high volume of competing job seekers, and these numbers are nearly impossible for any single HR Rep or Recruiter to handle without tech assistance. Enter ATS and HRMS software companies, which have figured out how to help their clients, by leveraging Artificial Intelligence to help crunch the data. A.I. will scrub the applicant data and flag candidates it “sees” as the best match, thusly providing recommendations on just a top few candidates to be considered. How does it accomplish this? It is simply looking for keywords on resumes, matching up with the job posting, and doing it in real-time. If you’re not careful, it’s likely your resume or application, will not even get looked at by a real person. Unless! Unless you have taken the time to actually read the job posting thoroughly, and subsequently ensured your resume contains the most critical keywords. This is not to say you should be adding experiences you don’t have, but you should notice if the posting is calling a skill you have by a different name, or if it’s citing one which you’ve neglected to include. Example: The job posting is asking for “Six Sigma” experience, which you have, but on your resume it is simply referred to as “Continuous Improvement,” not specifically “Six Sigma.” If this were the case, then you would need to change your resume and application to reflect that experience, or A.I. will not flag you as a top candidate.
5. Say “Thank You”
A key component of your job search is to show gratitude to the people that have helped you along the way. This is probably hard to do while you’re in panic mode; however, if you are proactive, take control and track what you’re doing, you will have the information you need to acknowledge those who have helped along the way — once you’re done. It doesn’t have to be something big, like a lunch or going out for drinks; it can be as simple as providing the update, “Hey, I landed at ABC Company in a new role. I wanted you to know where I am, and that I was so appreciative of your advice and time during my search. Please let me know if I can ever return the favor.” Out of the hundreds of job seekers I’ve helped throughout the years, a very small number have taken the time to do this. It’s easier now than ever with technology, so send a quick DM, IM, Text, Email, InMail, etc. Take the time to show your gratitude, as you never know when you may run across your helper again, and you will want them to remember you as a true professional.
6. Start Consulting
If you’ve been job seeking for three to six months, and you’ve not yet landed that next great opportunity, consider consulting. Right or wrong, prospective employers will view as stagnant, the candidates who have been out of the workforce for more than this amount of time. They will start to look for reasons as to why nobody has hired you. You DO NOT want this to happen. I’ve seen this time and again and can say with certainty that the vast majority of Recruiters and Hiring Managers will find fault in a resume gap that is too long. Consulting will keep your skills fresh, and you will be able to say confidently that you are looking for the right opportunity, not just any opportunity. Meanwhile, you’re able to keep busy with exciting project work — good for your professional body of work, but also critical for your mental well-being. Consulting is also a great way to get picked up for that full-time job you’ve been looking for; perhaps that project client will decide to hire you on, as you will have already proven out your strengths and capabilities.
Finding a new opportunity can be daunting and stressful. There are many other tips I’ve given job seekers over the years but I’ve found that oftentimes the simplest ones are the best ones. The common thread, I believe, is for the job seeker to take control of what they can. If you can accomplish this, who knows, perhaps the job search becomes exciting. What a refreshing outlook that would be!