In an unfamiliarly welcoming employment market, how should job seekers conduct their searches? Pretty much the same way they always did, career counselors say.
Employers are strengthening their recruiting efforts: attending job fairs, making campus visits, offering hiring bonuses and referral rewards. But until they start going door to door with clipboards, most job seekers still have to put in some effort.
“The basics are still the same,” said Kay Blassingame, a career counselor at VocationPartner in St. Paul. “It’s still important to network, still important to have a nice résumé, still important to interview well.”
“It’s not sexy, but the best practices don’t change that much depending on trends and what’s going on in the job market,” agreed Kim Bartels, a St. Louis Park-based executive coach for women and a career strategist. “There’s some basics: Know yourself, network, ask and be persistent.”
Career counselors offered the following tips for effective job hunting:
Tailor your résumé for specific postings. Mirroring the exact words and phrases in the job description increases the chances of being selected by résumé-scanning software, Blassingame said. But also put your skills near the top of the document, so they’re easily visible to humans sifting manually through stacks of résumés. (More résumé tips on page 10.)
Polish your personal brand. Hide the tipsy social-media photos, ranting posts, reckless tweets or other items that might give employers pause. “Be very careful about what you post, because employers are checking,” said Connie Wanberg, a professor with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies.
Find a “side door.” If you’re interested in a particular company or position, Bartels says, use LinkedIn to search the company’s current employees and offer to buy coffee or request an informational interview. Find people who share your alma mater (even if you didn’t know them in school) or other common bond. Cold calling, Bartels admitted, isn’t everyone’s favorite activity. “But I think, ‘What do you have to lose?’ You don’t play hard to get, I don’t think. You have to want to work there and have to let them know you want to be there.”
Don’t feel you have to meet every single qualification listed in a job posting, Bartels said — maybe not even the majority. “They give you these dream lists — nobody has all those qualifications. I think if you want the job, you apply.”
Focus on jobs that genuinely interest you, even if they’re in more competitive fields. “People who pursue their dreams or who pursue what they’re interested in tend to be more satisfied, more successful, and stay in their jobs longer,” Wanberg said.