I hear from many "older" job seekers these days who are frustrated with today's job search process. They are convinced that their "advanced age" (30, 40, 50, 60, or more) is causing them problems. I think they could be right, but NOT, perhaps, for the reason they think...
Although I do not doubt that age discrimination exists, I know that other things could be negatively impacting these people. It basically comes down to looking -- and being -- out of date, using old-fashioned job search techniques.
If you are over 40 or it has been more than three years since your last job hunt, you are probably unaware of how much recruiting and hiring practices have changed recently, particularly with the growth of social media and also with the tough job market we have been experiencing.
The 5 New Rules of Job Search
Regardless of age, being out-of-date is a very common problem but not, fortunately, an insurmountable one. Here are some things you can do to address the issue, and become more up-to-date for your job search and your career.
One of today's "problems" is too many opportunities! Studies have shown that we humans are almost paralyzed when we have too many choices -- which TV show to watch (when you have hundreds of channels), which coffee to order (when it comes in dozens of variations), and on, and on, and on...
Going to a job board and entering only the location is asking for over-load. Waaayyy too many choices! I just typed "Chicago" into Indeed, and it showed me 77,000+ jobs! Yikes!
To make your job search more effective, focus on the employers where you think you would like to work (more than 10, hopefully) and one or two job titles those employers use for the job you want.
2. Bring Your "A" Game!
The way you handle this whole process of applying and interviewing for a job is viewed as an example of your work -- which it is!
Use great care with all of your interactions with an employer or recruiter. Take the time to craft your best response rather than hurriedly attaching your resume to a one-sentence email with a subject that simply (and very unhelpfully) says, "Resume Attached" or "Applying."
Read "Deadly Email Job Search Mistakes" for tips on using email effectively.
Standing out from the crowd in a positive way is NOT optional. Leverage the technology currently available, and you will also prove that you are not out-of-date. You can do it!
- Resumes --
Resumes have changed substantially with the availability of technology. An old-fashioned resume stamps "OUT-OF-DATE" on your forehead! Most employers expect that you can use word processing software well enough to customize your resume and cover letter specifically for them. Generic work-history resumes don't often work well today.
Read "5 Resume Rules You Must Ignore" to understand what employers want today.
- Networking -
Studies show that the person who is referred by an employee is hired 5 times more often than the stranger who simply applies. So, focus your networking on your target employers (or a class of employers).
Find those former colleagues who you worked with well in the past. Or that great boss you had 2 jobs ago. Where are they working now? Are those employers hiring?
Read "3 Bad Assumptions About Networking for Your Job Search" for my favorite networking story -- people connecting with jobs in a very unusual situation (a funeral). I know it's true because I happily watched it happen in front of me.
- Interviewing --
Be very well-prepared. Expect to be asked, "So, what do you know about us?" and have a good answer ready based on your research on the employer's website as well as what Google and LinkedIn show you. Lack of preparation for this question is an immediate opportunity killer.
Prepare positive answers to the standard interview questions, particularly for any "soft spots" you have, like gaps in your employment history, being fired, or anything questionable about your recent work history that could raise concern for an employer.
Also, of course, be ready to answer the standard interview questions, like "Why do you want to work here?" and "Why should we hire you?"
Read "How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview" for more information.
3. Be Visible!
Being invisible is like another very large OUT-OF-DATE stamp on your forehead!
Employers use search engines to research job applicants more than 80% of the time, according to recent studies. They are looking for "social proof" that you are who you say you are, have done what you say you have done, would fit in well, and understand how to use the Internet for business. If they don't find that evidence, they move on to the next candidate.
If you Google your name and find nothing about you on the first page or -- at a minimum -- the first three pages, this is a problem for you! Yes, invisibility is better than having photos of you drunk at a party or doing something illegal. However, a lack of online visibility brands you as out-of-date (unless you are in some sort of super-secret profession, like a spy).
Invisibility also makes you vulnerable to mistaken identity. Oh, that person who has the same name you have and who stole money from his or her last employer isn't you? An employer doing a quick Google search would not know that person wasn't you, and, most likely, they would not take the time to find out.
Read "Smart Job Search Strategy: Defensive Googling" to understand how to stay on top of this issue.
4. Join LinkedIn!
Resumes today are often focused to meet the requirements of the employer resume databases and applicant tracking systems, so only two of your 10 page resume is visible. That's why LinkedIn is very useful.
LinkedIn is an excellent venue for managing professional/work visibility. Share all of your relevant accomplishments in your Profile. Make it more than "All Star." Use it to complete the picture of how much you know and the depth of your experience.
LinkedIn is usually number one -- or very near number one -- on a search of any person's name on a search engine. And, YOU control what it tells the world about you! Your LinkedIn Profile needs to be complete (called "All Star" -- LinkedIn guides you through that process), and then it will provide much of the "social proof" most employers are seeking.
LinkedIn will help you reconnect with those former colleagues, co-workers, and bosses, and give you opportunities, through Groups and Answers, to demonstrate what you know.
Be sure to have a good headshot photo in your LinkedIn Profile. Skipping the photo is a deadly mistake (read "5 Reasons to Have a Photo in Your LinkedIn Profile" for the reasons).
A skimpy Profile, with your resume copied and pasted in, won't help, even if it manages to qualify as "All Star." Read "5 Secrets to a Knockout LinkedIn Profile" by Laura Smith-Proulx for a more effective presence on LinkedIn.
5. Pay Attention!
We don't live in a static world. Set up Google Alerts for news about your target employers, industries, profession, locations, technologies, competitors, and anything else relevant to your job search and career. Staying up-to-date is essential today.
When you are at the employer's location as for a job interview, notice how it is organized, how well-kept the environment is, whether or not the employees seem stressed, how safe the location is, and whatever else is a concern for you. Consider whether or not you would like working for, or with, the people are are interviewing you.
If you don't pay attention to what is going on, you could be looking for a job in the wrong place at the wrong time. You don't want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin or the person looking for a job in a field that has disappeared.
Read "5 Ways to Use Google Alerts for Your Job Search" for more information.
Catch up with these New Rules so you don't look out-of-date because looking out-of-date is probably hurting you more than your age. The good news is that by becoming more up-to-date for your job search, you'll be more up-to-date for your job! So, you should be more successful once you land. We're never too old to learn something new -- it keeps us young!
Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. This piece first appeared on WorkCoachCafe.com.