10 Ways Job Searches Have Evolved in the 21st Century

Here are some of the major differences between today’s job search and job searches of the past. The rules have changed a lot in the past ten years, so don’t rely on what worked for you earlier in your career or the tips your old dad gave you.

The first page of Google has become your new résumé

Recruiters are now using Google searches to find talent instead of paying for job-board or talent databases like they used to. In fact, many companies even mandate that every new applicant go through a Google screening process.

So that means that the first page of your Google search results matter much more than they ever did before. The problem is that, unlike a standard background check, what Google delivers on a name search isn’t regulated and is very difficult for the user to control. Furthermore, Google’s search algorithm changes several times a year, so it’s difficult to know what will show up.

So what can you do about this situation? First, become a publisher of your own content and flood Google with lots of great keyword-rich content. Second, set up a Google Alert with your name in quotations so you know every time a new result shows up for your name.

A summary is enough

You no longer need a multipage résumé that includes lengthy, bulleted lists of all your past working experiences. A paragraph-long summary at the top of a one- to two-page résumé or in an online profile is more than enough to get by in the modern job-search market. Because so many candidates are competing for each job, HR people often scan résumés or profiles quickly.

In fact, the average time these folks spend reviewing a résumé is less than 30 seconds. So make your summary paragraph count, whether it’s at the top of a résumé or in an online profile. Details are for the interview.

Social proof is a must

Social proof, or the notion that if others think you’re cool then you must be cool, is essential because it seriously reduces the perceived risk of you as a candidate. Social proof for a job seeker can be LinkedIn recommendations or even testimonials from ex-bosses. The most costly mistake a hiring manager can make is to hire the wrong person.

A good standard is to have at least three recommendations for each place you have worked.

Résumés and cover letters aren’t read on paper anymore

Most organizations aren’t receiving paper résumés in the mail anymore. Most organizations review them on-screen. So expect your résumé and cover letter to be read on a computer screen and format it accordingly.

Always format your documents in a way that makes screen-scanning easy.

  • Use headlines to break up content.

  • Keep paragraphs short.

  • Use bold and italics to emphasize key points.

  • Keep plenty of white space on the page

  • Use color tastefully.

  • Consider adding logos, icons, or charts.

Relationships first, résumés second

Thanks to the popularity of social media, your résumé may not be the first thing a potential employer sees about you. As more and more people connect with each other on social media sites, a potential employer is far more likely to see your online profile before ever setting eyes on your résumé. Shift your priorities from “I have to update my résumé!” to “How can I expand my network?”

If you’re running your modern job search right, you’ll get unsolicited e-mails from recruiters. They may ask you for your résumé at some point, be sure to have a copy ready.

Employers only care about what they want

In years past, a résumé or job application focused on what the job seeker wanted. Now an application, résumé, or cover letter must speak to what value the job seeker can bring to the organization. As you write your online profiles, be sure to communicate how you can bring value to a company and how soon that company can realize that value.

Gaps in employment are okay

Large gaps in your résumé aren’t as important as they used to be. Not only do employers realize that wonderful people get laid off, but they also appreciate when candidates show initiative and volunteer, take a temp job, or try to start their own business.

As long as you have a good explanation for the time you weren’t working and can show that you’ve tried to be productive during it, a good potential employer will understand.

Nouns are the new currency

Screening software and LinkedIn talent searches have introduced an unexpected element to the way a résumé should be written. Because these tools rely on nouns or keywords to deliver search results to recruiters, the résumés with the right combination of nouns often win. After all, when was the last time you used a verb in a Google search?

Everyone has a personal brand

Ten years ago, not many people knew what a personal brand was or really had much of an online reputation. These days, even if you don’t know what a personal brand is or even if you’ve never touched a computer, you still have a personal brand and an online reputation.

Because recruiters and hiring managers are looking for red flags to help them narrow down their candidate pools, inconsistencies in your image or messaging and a sullied reputation may prevent you from passing screening. So you have to decide whether you’ll control your image or someone else will.

Employers expect you to be prepared

Back in the day, it didn’t matter whether your résumé was geared toward a particular company. Now, thanks to the Internet, you have access to more information about a company at your fingertips. Companies’ expectations are much higher. Focus on customizing each résumé and cover letter for the company you’re targeting. Sending off a few targeted applications is a much better strategy than sending out many general applications.

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