Evangelism: the preaching or promulgation of the gospel; the work of an evangelist. Missionary zeal, purpose or activity. – Dictionary.com
The rules governing how you construct your resume and seek a job are a little like a religious code. They serve as guides to help you along the path to employment (re: enlightenment.) But like any religious code, it is sometimes what you read between the lines that matters most.
So if you’re searching for the Holy Grail of a new job and wonder what you need to do to find it, well, the truth is out there but not always if you stare straight at it. The new evangelism of the job hunt has turned the hunt for work into a plot not unlike a Dan Brown novel–there are clues, symbols and keywords strewn all along the path. And like all religious plots, there is always a little madness mixed in with the common sense.
Here are some rules and suggestions for the new evangelism of the job search.
Job evangelism category #1: It’s a new age when it comes to telling your age
If you’re young…
Telling your age is the age-old taboo when seeking work. But if you are young and seeking work, inexperience can be seen a drawback in a competitive marketplace. The biggest hurdle for younger workers is the current job market is a nasty little thing called “the learning curve.” Some companies do not think they can afford the time to train someone new in the job or help them learn the business. This is a drawback for younger workers, who can be seen as a long term project when it comes to return on investment. The dirty little secret is that companies under financial pressure will seldom admit (to you or themselves) they can’t afford to hire you because their near term performance does not allow it.
The new evangelism of the job hunt for younger workers
Blessings of youth: Affordability
Sins of youth: Showing inexperience in your presentation can cost you
The Truth: Find ways to emphasize experience without padding your resume
If you’re an older worker…
If you are older than 40 and seeking work, your age and experience can work against you for several reasons. First, some companies and hiring managers think of older workers as tired, worn out and used up. Still others view older workers as “fixed in their ways” or incapable of change. Lastly, older workers have accumulated salary and benefits that some companies do not want to pay.
By contrast, your experience can mean that you are capable of coming into the job and making an immediate impact.
But as a rule, beware of listing too many former jobs or going too far back into your work history on your resume, or in interviews. Do your best to honestly resolve gaps between jobs or sudden job changes, and with brevity. Being seen a job hopper or a difficult employee can make getting hired a lot harder.
The new evangelism of the job hunt for older workers
Blessings: Possible impact player right away
Sins: Sometimes seen as rigid, and possibly too expensive
Truth: Build impressions about what you can do rather than where you’ve been or how long, unless that story is so impressive it gets you hired all on its own
Job evangelism category #2: Don’t put all your trust in the online job tools
With rare exception the days of looking in the newspapers for jobs are gone. Nowadays, even hard copy resumes are backup tools, not the lead item as was the case 20 years ago.
The new “tools of choice” in seeking job leads are the slick (and rapidly multiplying) supply of online job search tools. The choices are many. Some are free, some not. Careerbuilder. JobFox, LinkedIN. The Ladders.com. Simplyhired. Indeed.com. Even Craigslist cranks out daily lists of available jobs. So are job seekers better off for these resources?
Yes, and no.
The most important thing you need to know in looking for a job is that the online job search tools are indicators of the job market, and as such are also good sources to check for available jobs. But these online resources clearly do not represent the entire job market, which often represents more than 50% of the real, available opportunities if you know how to go looking for them.
Oh sure, there may be plenty of jobs listed on Careerbuilder.com. And you will see many people applying for those jobs. But that’s precisely the point. The real, hidden job market is actually much larger than what you ever see on the job boards no matter what they tell you. And the focus placed on those jobs that are advertised creates a false pressure on a narrow selection of jobs. That’s where things start to get very funky when it comes to competing for jobs listed online.
Those jobs are simply the positions listed by companies who choose to use that method to find candidates. It does not mean they are the best or worst companies to work for, only that they are structured in a manner that solicits candidates through these methods. Many great companies never even list their available jobs, and the best companies to work for are often those that want you enough as an employee to create a job that fits your skills as it fulfills their needs. Now, imagine that. Almost like heaven, huh?
Instead the companies that do list jobs online must often face a mountain of possible candidates. Then the HR people have to play God and come down from that mountain waving 10 or 20 possible candidates so that the hiring managers can choose to interview them.
The sad truth is that many of the people who apply for jobs online do not remotely fit the job description or the position in question. That is how pay sites like TheLadders.com evolved, to sort out lesser qualified candidates by charging a fee ($30 a month for basic services) with a guarantee that jobs listed on TheLadders.com will also be six-figure jobs. It’s all rather Darwininian if you think about it. The richest candidates pay a fee to avoid being mixed in with lesser job seekers. This aspect of the new evangelism for the job hunt is quite deliciously Dickensian. Pay to play is alive and well in the job market. Uncle Scrooge would have loved it. Not so sure about Jesus…but the Bible is full of harsh parables in which masters require much of their servants for a day’s work and severely punish their servants for mismanaging their money, so there is little solace even in the Bible when it comes to the job search.
In sum the online job tools are easy to use and are certainly a more efficient way to reach companies as a great improvement over older methods such as mailing paper resumes, sending faxes and making awkward phone calls to find out if materials were received. But while online job tools have made applying for jobs more efficient, they do not necessarily improve the chances for candidates trying to get hired. It is still very much a numbers game, even for those willing to pay for the right to reach employers as a smaller pool of candidates.
The new evangelism of the job hunt: Online job searches
Blessings: Ease and efficiency
Sins: High volume of candidates dilutes effectiveness
Truth: The best practice is to identify a job online and then try to network with someone at the company to enhance your candidacy as you apply
Job evangelism category #3: Networking
The best way to find a job is through networking. That means getting to know people at companies where you want to work. Networking is both a science and an art. The science part of networking includes techniques like making lists, researching (I know, sounds boring…but do it) to find people in businesses or industries and then contacting these people either through business or social channels. That’s the science of networking.
The art of networking is knowing how best to contact these people, and when. A word of warning: It is easy to chase off a possible networking prospect if you are too direct (“Do you know of any jobs at your company?” or too obtuse (“Can we have lunch together? I’d like to talk to you about something…). I will confess to personally committing both these sins, and they do hurt. But you must learn from your mistakes in the networking game.
Experts in the new evangelism of the job hunt tell us it pays to think about gaining “information” rather than “getting hired right away” through networking. So it is advised that you contact people for information about their company. Have questions ready when you reach them. Never keep anyone on the phone more than 10 minutes and always thank them in person and with a followup card for their time.
Then follow up any leads you find. Send short, succinct emails documenting your conversation(s) with reference to the next person in your networking chain–hopefully a hiring manager or a person of influence–and you’ll soon find some momentum working in your favor.
One final hint: Join LinkedIn. Right away. It’s easy to build a basic profile. Then look around and see what groups you can join within your profession. Type in searches to find former colleagues with whom you can Link, and offer to write them Recommendations. In return they may offer to write a Recommendation for you. This is networking in the Social Media age and it is absolutely vital that you learn how to enhance your job search using this online tool.
Facebook is not so necessary as LinkedIn, but can be an useful job searching tool, particularly as you network to find out about jobs you are pursuing. Ask your network if anyone knows anyone in the company, or anything about the company. You will be surprised how much information you get back.
Blessings: Networking is the “social” way to get a job
Sins: Be careful not to be overbearing, demanding or expect too much
The truth: In many cases, you can get hired quicker through networking than through other means
Job evangelism category #4: The secret world of keywords, SEO and resume parsing
If you have just one resume these days you are either really good at what you do and are completely confident that your experience as listed on a piece of paper can get you a job, or else you are hopelessly, completely naïve.
The new evangelism of the job hunt is that you draft a template resume, then individualize or customize it for each new position you seek.
Many companies now use scanners to search and sort resumes by keywords aligned to the position for which they are hiring. If your resume does not contain these important keywords, it gets dumped. Frankly it all seems a little shallow, as if searching for a job was just a game played with silly words, like Pictionary or something. But buzzwords are a key part of human enterprise. Whether you are seeking a job or confessing your faith in the Lord, people like to hear certain key phrases. That’s how the new evangelism for the job hunt really works, like a proactive confessional. Your job as the applicant is to sing like you have been a member of the choir forever. If you are an engineer, you must sing in engineer terms. If you are a graphic artist or copywriter, you must sing the song of creativity and productivity. If you are a lawyer, you sing in legalese. The new evangelism for the job hunt is much like the Old Tyme Religion and singing for your supper. Only now it’s all done digitally.
The magic keywords of the job hunt “confessional” relate to something called “SEO,” an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. Where do you find these magic words? In every job description there are words that function as indicators. When repeated dutifully they identify you as a potential candidate. If your resume or cover letter lacks these “magic words” the machine or the person reading your resume will eliminate you. Also, using SEO your resume can be found by recruiters searching job boards. Your resume can show up on Google and other search engines if you position it on a web site or a searchable page.
Let’s reiterate: How do you find and position the magic words on a resume? The words you need are often hidden in plain sight, right in the job description as apply for a position. Be disciplined. In your eagerness to talk about yourself it is easy to forget this potentially important step. And the magic words don’t always jump out at you.
It helps to some reading on the company web site to drop in some industry buzzwords that show you care and know what they do. But really, if you’re applying for a job you should know this much, or why bother? It is unethical to apply for jobs for which you are clearly unqualified.
That means that when it comes to your resume, your listed work experience needs to strongly align with the listed (magic) keywords or you will fall away as a candidate as well.
The new evangelism of the job hunt: Keywords and SEO
Blessings: Keywords and SEO can help you target your resume
Sins: Keywords and SEO–alone they’re not enough to get you the job
The truth: You almost have to individualize every resume you send out
Job hunt evangelism: Benedictions for the new evangelism for the job hunt
The last but most important secret to a job search is the reality check. Beyond keywords and SEO, good recruiters and HR managers know their way around a resume. It is said that it used be possible to get a job when your resume showed 6 out of 10 key attributes for a position. With competition for jobs more fierce than ever, candidates are lucky to get consideration if only they meet 9 out of 10 key attributes. One friend who is an exasperated job seeker told me, “You really need 14 out of 10 to get the job. All 10 attributes plus four more they don’t expect.”
Like any new religion, the new evangelism of the job hunt is a belief system in constant change and flux. And here’s the hard part: The rules do keep changing as each new technology and layer of sophistication is invented.
But you still need to know that the basics that worked for evangelists of the past still work today. If you want people to believe in you and what you have to offer, then get out there an network your way to success.
Then remember to pay attention to the rules in the new evangelism of the job hunt. Manage perception of your age and experience, craft your resume to heighten attributes (not age) and reflect your suitability to the job by placing keywords and SEO in the documents and cover letters you send in communication.
May you be on your way to a better job, a better world and a better life.