One of the things I was most surprised by when I got into the jobs business over a decade ago was the prevalence and practice of age discrimination in hiring right here in the USA. Oh, sure... we're not like some overseas markets where job ads explicitly demand youth, or a particular gender, or beauty(!), in the applicant, but there it is...
When I deliver talks, I like to ask the audience members to share some adjectives that describe the job hunt experience. Their responses?
"Exciting" (there's one in every crowd)
I think it's pretty terrible that professionals like you, who are in the top ten percent of workers in the country, have to go through such a negative experience when you're switching jobs.
On the theory that "knowledge is power," I've taken everything I've learned in my decade in this business and shared it on my blog in a series of posts titled "History of Job Search".
For the full version, you can click through here.
The short version is that during the 20th century, most job advertising occurred in the local paper. Because they were local, and because it took some time for a candidate to reply, hiring companies found that they received a reasonable number of reasonably qualified applicants for most of their jobs. When that didn't work, they'd hire executive search firms to proactively canvass the market and speak with people on their behalf.
With the rise of the internet, a great thing has happened: communicating across long distances and finding out information on a wide variety of topics has become free and easy.
With the rise of the internet, though, a bad thing happened for the job hunt: communicating has become free and easy and job information was available to anybody, anywhere, on the internet at all times at no cost.
The result? HR departments have been overwhelmed by the flood of unqualified candidates. There is so much noise, and there are so many people who just click the "apply" button without thinking it through, that it makes it difficult to get anything productive done on the open internet.
So what can you do about it?
Realizing that the problem is too much volume out there, you need to change your game.
It used to be said that the job hunt is a numbers game. That made sense when the numbers were in the dozens, and each application required some time and thoughtfulness.
Today, the job hunt is an attention game. You've got to find a way to stand out and get the attention of the hiring managers who need you. It's about quality now, not quantity.
Think about the big pile of junk mail you get at home every day. Most of it goes directly into the "round file." But there are some pieces of mail that you read. Why?
It's typically one of two things: you know the sender, or something catches your eye.
You need to do the same in your job hunt.
We've made TheLadders.com the largest source for $100K+ jobs and $100K+ job-seekers for just this reason. Recruiters and HR groups know that when they post their jobs with us, or search through the resume database, they're going to find only qualified professionals. And job-seekers like you know that the jobs here are hand-screened by two human beings to make sure they're $100K+ before we let them onto the site.
Because TheLadders.com is known to both job-seekers and HR people, we grab their attention.
That's one way of using the "know the sender" rule.
Another is references. When you find a great job listing on TheLadders, use your network and your friends to find somebody who works there who will put a good word in for you. You're much more likely to get assistance from your network if you can say, "I applied for Job #453-182, Director, Corporate Solutions, at Acme on January 18th, 2010. If you could forward my resume to the appropriate person in HR or the hiring manager, I know I would be a great fit for this job."
By using trusted senders the hiring manager or HR person already knows, you're more likely to avoid the "round file."
The other way to get attention is to make your message really stand out.
Think about the product catalogs or advertisements you get in the mail. Which ones actually persuade you to read them?
No, it's not typically the ones that drone on about their product features, or list all the details of the product. It's the ones that catch your eye and make you say, "I need something like that." It's the ones that sell you on the benefits to you.
Similarly, your resume needs to "pop" and make the hiring manager say, "I need someone like that." So your resume has to speak to the hiring manager in terms that he or she understands, and explain what you can do for them in a way that makes you stand out from the rest of the pile. You need to make your resume explain the benefits to them.
And in these two ways, by using trusted sources like TheLadders.com or your network, and by making your message engaging and attention-grabbing, you'll prosper in this new era of the job hunt.
OK, folks, that's the "long and short" of why the job search is so painful and what you can do about it. I hope you found it helpful, and I hope you have a great week!
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