Two Essential Job Search Tools (hint: they’re not your computer)

The Internet has made posting, searching, and applying for jobs easier than ever, but it has not made getting a job any easier, especially not in the current market. Ironically, all of the technology has made the personal touch even more important.

In the bad old low-tech days, we used to submit resumes and cover letters (on bond paper!) by mail. Even with mail-merge programs, it was fairly labor-intensive and not to be done on a whim. Our resumes were then reviewed by hand with all the other resumes, and we typically got a letter or phone call in response. (I can still remember those form rejection letters “your qualifications do not match our needs at this time…..”) Now the ease and speed of submission has vastly increased the number of job seekers for any posted position. Their resumes are frequently electronically reviewed for key words, with only a small fraction ever being seen by human eyeballs. As a result, simply submitting an application without a personal referral has an extremely low likelihood of success — maybe as low as 4% of jobs are found that way (down from 30% or so previously). There is simply such a vast quantity of applicants that unless they have an inside connection, qualified candidates are unlikely to rise to the to top of the heap.

In this environment, job seekers must invest more time in making personal connections — networking — and they must clearly differentiate themselves from other candidates — develop their own “brand.”

Making personal connections — face-to-face, on the phone and yes, online — is essential to a successful search. The majority of professional positions are filled by personal referral of some sort. Thus, you must cultivate and activate you personal network at every opportunity. this means everything from simply letting people know you are looking (be as specific as possible so they know how to refer you) to arranging more formal networking interviews with people connected to the field or organization in which you wish to find work. Cast your net as wide as possible, as you significantly increase your odds of finding a job the more extended your network. Remember that your network extends beyond people you know to the people they know. And always make sure you know what your are offering and what your are asking for.

Also thanks to the volume of applicants, differentiating yourself from the general herd will make the difference between getting the job and being an also-ran. Forgive me if this sounds crass, but a job search is really a marketing campaign — with you as the product. so take time to identify your brand. What value do you provide? What is your “special sauce” that sets you apart from the competition? What are a small handful of attributes or accomplishments that exemplify who you are and what you can do for a potential employer? This is your brand, and it should infuse your resume and cover letter and is the basis for your elevator pitch. Write several and try them out on your friends. It may feel weird or unnatural at first, and you will want to practice.

So don’t spend (waste) all your job search time and energy on Monster or other job postings. Instead, invest in these two important tools — network and brand. Yes, the effort is greater, but so is the pay-off — a job!