Grant Cooper explains how to best use the Internet in your job search.
First, please tell me what you do.
For the past 19 years, I have operated a résumé writing and career coaching business to help executives, professionals, mid-career, and entry-level candidates find the jobs that meet their needs. Sometimes it is a high pay level that best serves my client. We can help them find a better paying position. Sometimes a client is willing to take a modest pay cut in order to get their foot in the door of a great company, for example Google. We study the profiles and qualifications that certain companies seek in order to maximize our clients’ résumés and gain the attention of the gatekeepers at those firms. And then there are clients looking to find more meaning in their careers, for example, we have some who want to work for the NFL or get into arts administration, or perhaps a job that involves international travel. In all of those cases, we help to chart a specific path that will result in landing that dream job.
Let’s talk about the use of the Internet for a job search.
Since we spend now many more hours in our cubicles, cars, and offices than we do in town squares, gathering places, or in groups, job seekers need to find creative digital ways to connect with others who can help them. However, it is easy to get sidetracked into the digital world and forget that “real life” is also essential in your job search. Serious candidates should constantly enhance and monitor their professional stature by writing and publishing articles in their areas of expertise, participate in professional associations, and actually “get out there” and attend meetings and events. In today’s hyper-competitive job market, it is imperative that jobseekers constantly upgrade their knowledge through continuing education classes, seminars, conferences, and certifications.
Which job search sites would you say are best?
Right now, LinkedIn and Twitter are the hottest social media sites for professional networking. Those who are not actively using one or both are probably not going to be seen or heard. Then there are general job boards that aggregate job listings from many sites, as well as paid listings, such as Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, CollegeRecruiter, Simply Hired, etc. Don’t ignore company job portals... most large companies have a “Careers” or “Jobs” section on their website where you can directly access openings and apply for positions.
Which would you suggest avoiding?
In general, it’s probably a good idea to use all possible sources of available jobs, with the exception of the scam sites. However, criminals (often outside the U.S.) often post phony job ads to convince you to send them personal information. It is important to remember that cyber criminals can often post their ads onto well-known job sites, use familiar logos, write convincing verbiage, or create links to fake websites that look nearly identical to those of legitimate companies.
What, besides job search sites, would you say are the best resources on the Internet for job seekers?
Medical, educational, or other professional associations often have job listings online. You can also find jobs listed on special interest sites, for example, you can access minority jobs at DiversityConnect.com, executive jobs at 6FigureJobs.com, veterans’ jobs at VetJobs.com, and sports jobs in WorkInSports.com. Occupational sites are another place to look. For example, eFinancialCareers.com, ApartmentCareers.com, ConstructionJobs.com, HigherEdJobs.com, HospitalJobsOnline.com, and many more.
Any big traps?
The biggest trap of all is to be passive and wait for the job to come to you. I encourage today’s jobseekers to be “hunters” as opposed to “farmers” in a figurative sense of those terms. While “farmers” merely wait for jobs to be posted and then respond to those announcements (along with hundreds of others responding to the same ads), “hunters” actively seek out contacts within the companies they target, and find innovate and diplomatic ways to develop connections there.
What would you say are the biggest mistakes people make in their Internet job searches?
One of the biggest mistakes is in the actual résumé itself. When most of us got out of school, we were told in no uncertain terms to ‘keep the résumé to one page’ at all costs. While that may have been the case years ago, brief résumés are no longer effective in today’s competitive job market. Also, résumés that contain detailed information, but are literally ‘crammed’ in, are now frowned upon. Hiring directors do not want to read microscopic print squeezed into a “short” résumé. Companies that once insisted on 1-page résumés are perfectly happy with a clearly written, concise, and well-formatted, longer résumé that is easy to read. An effective résumé must be specific and show actual projects, improvements, and measurable results you achieved.
Let’s say I’m just starting my job search. What’s the first step if I’m using the Internet?
The hidden job market can be tapped with one basic secret… names. What you need to do first is to research and learn the actual names of the department heads, decision-makers, and movers and shakers at companies you are targeting. It should go without saying that you need to Google etc. to keep up with any new trends or developments with those companies. Then you need to determine how to connect and network with those individuals. There are literally dozens of ways to do this, including LinkedIn, Facebook, email (their email addresses are often in their company websites), correspondence, thank you notes, meeting them at events, etc.
And then where do I go from there?
Instead of simply looking for a company or a job opening, make your focus searching for potential contacts. According to research conducted from 2008-2011 by Dr. John Sullivan and Associates, 46% of hiring at the nation’s top-performing firms resulted directly from referrals, while a Career Xroads survey conducted in 2011-2012 for all firms showed 29% of new hires coming from referral sources. Those who are most successful in their job search find someone “on the inside” who can literally walk their résumé into the right decision-maker’s office.
Any additional advice for job seekers?
When you connect with potential contacts, always do research on them and know about their interests and background. Then give them something. Give them a short article you wrote on your common field, paying particular homage to things you found out about them and asking if they have any suggestions for changes to the article. Give them an invite to speak before your group (Toastmasters, Kiwanis, professional association, etc.). Ask them if they are involved in any research or project that could use a volunteer, whether in their company or a non-profit they support. After you’ve built some trust, ask, in a respectful way, “I realize you get a ton of résumés and requests, but would it be O.K. to email you a copy of my résumé for any advice you may have on opportunities?” Always state that you know their time is valuable, that you know they are swamped (I have yet to find the person who does not firmly believe he/she is overworked), and follow-up. Not hearing an answer often means your message may have slipped through the cracks, they may be busy, or any other reason. Don’t assume rejection. Polite persistence is the key.