With the national unemployment rate still at 8.9 percent as of February, many people are still looking for work.
Given the crowded field of applicants, job seekers need an edge anywhere they can find it – and some are finding it through social media and other technology.
For example, one guy got a job through a $6 ad campaign. He bought sponsored search results from Google that turned up his website when the people he wanted to hire him searched their own names. Of course, that trick won’t work for everyone. But it’s just one example of using technology wisely.
To find out what other people are doing (or should be doing) our reporter Jim Robinson talked with Shari Saperstein, the director of Career Development at Nova Southeastern University. To hear what she thinks is important these days, watch the video below. Then read on for some more tech tips to help you trump the competition.
Let’s recap the advice and take it further:
- Research employers. Look at company websites not only for job openings but also to get a feel for the company. Try to understand what they do, and how and why they do it – employers may skip over candidates who don’t know anything about the company. What buzz words does the company use to describe itself? Parroting them at an interview couldn’t hurt. If you’re targeting a specific company, set up a Google news alert so you get emailed the latest happenings. You can also check for employee reviews at Glassdoor.com and use sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to see what other employees are saying or even ask them questions – through private messages, of course.
- Clean up your online persona. Potential employers will be using the same methods to scope you out, so make sure your profiles are professional – or at least private. “If you have a Facebook page, it should be fully professional,” Saperstein says. “Pull off anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see and use email to go back and forth with your friends.” She also says not to have multiple profiles on a site. Employers may find them and think you’re hiding something. For more tips on scrubbing your Internet persona, check out 6 Tips for Going Underground Online.
- Use your smartphone. Yup, there’s an app for that. Here are 10 iPhone Apps to Manage Your Job Search and 20 Best Android Apps for Your Job Search. “Companies are starting to get into posting positions through different apps,” Saperstein say – Starbucks made its first hire through an app last October.
- Build your brand. Many people now have at least a digital version of their resume on a site like LinkedIn. Some people are starting to use Google Profiles as well, and others create their own websites with blogs and portfolios of their work. You don’t have to be a tech genius to do it either. There are customizable publishing platforms like WordPress, which even has videos showing you step-by-step how to build your own site and offers free templates that you simply type into. Also get involved on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but don’t just post your own stuff. Have conversations with people in the field. And do it consistently. “You can’t just create a Facebook page or Twitter and abandon it,” Saperstein says. “You need to tweet once or twice a week, minimum.”
- Network and learn. The more time you spend on these social networks, the more you’ll notice industry discussions and training resources are everywhere. Here’s a list of weekly chats on Twitter for PR people, and the people you follow probably know about the ones relevant to your field. If there isn’t one, think about starting one. People will pay attention to you, and it’s a great networking opportunity. “Take the initiative,” Saperstein says. “It shows someone who has a lot of foresight, energy, and is really motivated and engaged.” Sites like Mashable keep an eye on the social media world, and even discuss things like, oddly enough, How Job Seekers May Use Social Media in the Future.
Of course, there are some things where there isn’t “an app for that” and probably never will be. Here are some other tips from Shari Saperstein, useful regardless of the tech you use:
- Tailor your resume to specific jobs. “They’re not going to sit there and say, ‘Oh, there are transferable skills here.’ They’re going to cut you out because they don’t have the time.”
- Format the resume according to what the job calls for. “Chronology is irrelevant and ineffective these days,” Saperstein says. “Read the job description and identify the specific, tangible skills they’re looking for. Put matching skills at the top of your resume.”
- Join professional organizations and keep learning about the field. Online social networking is important, but do some real-life networking too. “It shows you’re keeping up with the times and invested. It shows you’re eager and hungry,” says Saperstein.
- Don’t be afraid to brag a bit. “No one is going to market you but you. If you’re shy, you have to learn to become confident. Put on that happy face and represent yourself.”
And if you’re curious about where the job market is going, check out 10 New Trends for 2011 Jobs.