August 30, 2009
New rules: Get a leg up over job seekers who still play the old way
Special to NWjobs
Jobs in general, as well as the job of looking for work, have changed dramatically over the past decade, many experts say. Learning how to shift your approach to match the new environment will smooth the path to finding employment. If it has been several years since you’ve ventured into the job market, here are some key differences you should be aware of.
Old school: Peruse classified ads and online job boards.
New rule: “The real way to get a job is through networking, getting contacts within the company you can talk to,” says Seattle career coach Richard Baum. “Ninety percent of jobs are reached that way, yet job seekers spend 90 percent of their time answering ads and online job board (postings).”
Networking has always been a mantra for people looking for work. That used to involve a lot of cold calling and letter writing, but it has changed thanks to Web sites such as LinkedIn and Biznik. “The bad news is that it’s an unprecedented difficult time to find a job,” says Seth Basker, an Issaquah career coach. “But the good news is that it’s never been easier to find the hidden job market. It’s all about networking. By far the best social networking Web site is LinkedIn. For any professional looking for a job, it’s well worth the time.”
Old school: State your goal and list the tasks you can perform, using keywords and bullet points.
New rule: Baum advises clients to highlight the benefits, in specific terms, that they brought to previous employers. He tells of one client who wrote on her resume: “researched office automation software.” Baum probed, and she explained that after evaluating the merits of several applications, she selected one that saved her company $240,000 over a couple of years. That’s the kind of information an employer wants to see, he says.
According to Joseph Perez, a professional resume writer based on Capitol Hill, keywords should “blend into the body of a resume in a natural way.” Because bulleted lists consume 20 to 30 percent more space than paragraph style does, Perez advises using bullets only to highlight achievements. Keep your resume to one page -- two pages max -- he says, and keep the information oriented toward a specific job.
Old school: The interviewer has control; you do little prep work and merely answer questions.
New rule: When employers pepper you with questions, it’s an “adult-child relationship,” Basker says. He believes the best interviews have a 50-50 exchange between candidate and employer. “You want an adult-adult relationship,” Basker says. “You need to gather information that allows you to understand the requirements of the position and then guide the interview. The earlier you get to ask your questions, the more mobility you’ll have to customize your responses to solve (the company’s) problems.”
Baum says interviews now emphasize how candidates fit into the company’s culture. To accomplish this, candidates “better have a really good idea of what the company’s culture is like” before interviewing, he says. This includes knowing how employees generally dress, a tip-off as to what you should wear to the interview.
Amazon.com, for instance, has three key concepts that it wants to see in its workers. Prospective employees can learn them by looking them up on the company’s Web site or talking to people who work there, Baum says.
Old school: Employers offer stock options, pension plans and generous medical insurance and vacation time.
New rule: Ten years ago, employers often lured candidates with a variety of perks; today, incentives are slim. “Pensions that were offered routinely in the past just don’t exist anymore,” Basker says, as companies replace them with less-expensive 401(k) programs. Also, he points out, more of the health-insurance cost has shifted to employees, in the form of higher co-pays and less comprehensive coverage.
Baum says the business model itself has changed a great deal over the past few decades. “Back in the ’60s, you could expect to work in the same factory for 20 or 30 years,” he says. “The model now has become one of temporary employment, where a company
will ramp up or ramp down the numbers of its employees.”
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