How to Win in Today’s Job Market

Getting a job is a competition

It is well-known that in today’s economy, job seekers face unprecedented challenges. One of them is the large numbers of applicants chasing just a few openings, but another is their lack of understanding of the rules of the competition. Many discount the fact that employers use different methods of selecting final candidates by applying certain technology, and those job applicants simply keep doing what they did years ago, when they almost always had success finding a job.

Data supporting the facts about job application are available online via such sources as wsj.com, CareerBuilder, TheLadders, staffing.org, Adecco, and BeHiring. Here are a few of those facts: On average, 200 to 300 résumés are received for every single corporate job opening. Half of those will be screened out by recruiters or applicant-tracking-system (ATS) software. About 20 to 30 résumés will be reviewed by the decision maker. Only 4 to 6 will be invited for interviews. One to 3 might be invited back for a final interview, and ultimately, of course, one will be offered the job. And then, 20 percent of applicants given an offer will reject it. Surprised?

Data shows that recruiters spend on average six seconds reviewing a résumé. Their eyes follow a certain pattern by seeking out (1) job titles, (2) companies you worked at, (3) start and end dates, and (4) your education. Recruiters are known to deselect résumés with even one tiny typo, résumés of applicants not currently employed, and, often, if your name or certain other information reveals something the recruiter has a bias against.

Applicants should realize that many ATSs are simply not able to scan and read résumés that are in pdf or other formats. A very high number—sometimes up to 90 percent—of résumés are rejected because they have not been customized to the specific job opening. Before initiating contact with an applicant, recruiters typically search on the Internet for additional information about the person. Mostly they look at LinkedIn, and if the applicant has no photo, that’s another reason to move on to the next prospect. If there is indeed a photo, it should be professional looking and complimentary. Sometimes people even apply for positions that do not exist. Or a posted job description got changed in the meantime.

Recruiters don’t have an easy job because if they submit candidates to be interviewed who in the eyes of the hiring managers don’t have the perfect qualifications those hiring managers are looking for, the recruiters will hear about it in a derogatory way.

So, what’s the answer to increasing your chances of being chosen for an interview? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Your résumé should be customized for application to each and every specific position.
  • You should ensure that it contains many of the keywords included in the job description.
  • It should have no typos or misspellings or grammatical errors.
  • It should be in the standard résumé format starting with the job title you’re applying for, followed by your past employers and including your titles, and ending with your education.
  • After you customize your résumé for the position, you should save it in plain-text format with everything flush left and submit that. A nicely formatted version can be sent at a later point.
  • Your best chances for being invited to an interview lie in finding someone inside the company who would sponsor your candidacy.

How Many LinkedIn Connections One Needs?

How Many LinkedIn Connections One Needs

The more the merrier

Many people ask me how many LinkedIn connections one needs.  I’m a huge proponent of increasing the number of connections on LinkedIn. I voice that strong opinion every time I make a public presentation on a relevant subject or speak with anyone looking for advice on finding a job. At times, I find opponents to the concept, but mostly only up until I give them the logic behind my reasoning. Admittedly, I can’t convert everyone. Some people are very emotional about the subject, and perhaps that’s their only reason; my own argument is logical.

In LinkedIn lingo, we talk about first-, second-, and third-level connections. Sociologists have been wrestling with the subject of such connections, or ties, as they call it, many years before the LinkedIn era. They differentiate between strong ties and weak ties. For our purpose, first-level connections are considered strong ties; the rest are weak ties. Sociologists such as Mark Granovetter of Stanford University, Ofer Sharone of MIT, and Sandra Smith of the University of California, Berkeley have done work in this area. Through their extensive research, they’ve proved that a weak tie is more prone to be of assistance to someone looking for work than a strong tie is. The logical explanation is that if you recommend someone who ultimately doesn’t get the job, it reflects badly on you as the person making the recommendation. By making a recommendation, you’re spending your own reputational capital in the form of social and, at times, political currency. This does not hold true—or at least not to the same extent—if the connection is a weak tie. In addition, if you know someone well—that is, via a strong tie—it is very likely that you’re also familiar with the person’s weaknesses and you might feel bad about not being 100 percent honest if you recommend the person. And two more valid arguments surfaced from the sociologists’ research: (1) that the strong-tie connections mingle in the same social and work circles and all of them are exposed to similar information, whereas (2) the weak-tie connections mingle in different circles.

I hope I’ve clarified my point for the need to increase the number of your first-level connections on LinkedIn. Why? Because you cannot get to second- and third-level connections—which might be the connections you really want (based on these studies)—unless you have sufficient first-level connections. Have you ever asked yourself why there are so many LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers, which are people who accept all invitations) on LinkedIn? One reason is that those LIONs understand the need for weak connections; another reason is that people by nature are competitive and want to outdo others, or who knows why? Do you? Please share your opinion.

How to Turn Networking into Interviews

How to Turn Networking into Interviews

Networking is relationship building

People in transition know that 60 to 80 percent of job seekers get their next positions through networking. Consequently and whenever possible, they focus their daily activities on such networking. But despite their—sometimes admittedly awkward—efforts, nothing comes of it. The reason is that they don’t have an understanding of the actual purpose of networking and how to turn it into interviews.

The purpose of networking is to cultivate relationships for advice, information, leads, and, hopefully, referrals. While it’s important to know others for this purpose, it’s equally important that those others know you. Most people are willing to network, but they have the right to expect you to (1) focus on specific companies and (2) demonstrate to them that networking is a give-and-take transaction, whereby they, too, may get from you in turn some industry intelligence.

For those who don’t know how to go about approaching a person for the purpose of networking, here’s a simple script that can be used either over the phone or via e-mail.

My name is Jane Jones. Our mutual acquaintance Stan Smith
suggested I give you a call [send you an e-mail] because he feels
you’re an expert in the pharmaceutical industry. Stan suggested
you might be of assistance to me. I’m in transition and looking
for a role as a marketing director. I don’t expect you to know
of an opening in this area, but perhaps you can share with me
your thoughts about ways I can find out who’s hiring.

The mechanics of a networking dialogue should have the following components. An initial rapport building to establish the relationship. An agenda for the purpose—and that consider how you, too, can add value. Try finding out whom the other person knows or what good contacts the person has. Another element is likability. You must develop your relationship on trust, integrity, and shows of enthusiasm, motivation, and drive. Nobody enjoys a conversation with someone who’s depressed—with the possible exception of a psychologist!   And last, get engaged in the exchange, and try to feel comfortable asking for referrals. When you get them, make sure you keep your host in the loop.

If you follow these guidelines, it’s very likely that you’ll generate more interviews. In that event, make sure you’re well prepared. You don’t want to drop the ball once you’re so close to scoring.