Job Search 2020 & Beyond
Job search is one of those areas in career development where it seems like nothing ever changes, until you look around and suddenly find everything has.
For people searching for work today the market can be a confusing mix. There are roles growing in demand and others shrinking and disappearing; there are new approaches to hiring and employment, and shifting employer expectations of the skills needed for success, along with an ever-expanding array of new HR hiring tools and platforms.
As career practitioners, keeping up with these shifts in approach and expectations is important if we are to help our clients find positive-fit opportunities, land work faster and create meaningful change.
The following are some of the changes I have observed that affect job search today.
HIRING SHIFTS: The continuing move to proactive hiring and inboard recruiting.
As skills shortages continue to affect organisations globally, hirers are becoming more proactive in sourcing and finding talent in what’s deemed a ‘candidate’s market’.
In response to low talent availability, particularly for people with in-demand skill sets, hirers are moving away from simply posting on a job board and waiting for candidates to respond. Instead they are employing a range of tools and channels to find and attract talent, and to build engaged talent pools they can quickly tap into when opportunities arise.
These approaches help them hire faster and source available talent with the skills they need. These channels may include, not just job boards and résumé banks, from a wide range of sources that include: LinkedIn; social media; their own networks; rediscovery from their current ATS systems; referrals from employees’ networks; agencies; professional platforms and open sources across the web.
New technologies are also beginning to emerge in the market with the capacity to accelerate the process of finding and screening potential talent for hirers to approach and engage. These new sourcing tools can quickly scour the web and professional platforms to identify potential talent that may match the hirer’s needs. Many of these new AI and online tools are yet to become mainstream but they certainly give us a glimpse into how hiring may operate in the not so distant future.
This means that for job seekers, it’s no longer just about finding job opportunities and applying, but also about making sure hirers and hiring technologies can find you.
It also highlights that whilst application numbers on job boards may be dwindling for some high-demand roles, many hirers are widening their search to other channels, leading to competition amongst job applicants and passive candidates, as well as those who are actively seeking work on the open market.
To succeed in this landscape, people need to master both:
- The art of active job search through the targeting of positive-fit opportunities and the creation of compelling go-to-market materials and savvy search approaches; and
- Proactive brand building through strategic market positioning, visibility/credibility optimisation via personal branding, profile SEO, network and social capital development.
Together these skills enable people to find work and to ‘be found’ for work.
BRANDING SHIFTS:Proactive brand building becomes universally beneficial.
Just as phone books were replaced by web searches, the world of hiring is becoming increasingly digital and automated. As hirers become seekers of talent across multiple channels and technologies help hirers spread the net wider and faster, opportunities come to those who are visible and credible.
For many job seekers branding is still regarded as something needed by ‘other people’. It’s sometimes seen as a medium for the ambitious or entrepreneurial. Consequently, it’s this proactive element that is often the missing piece for many candidates.
As hirers move to proactive recruitment methods it is important for people to analyse their brand and digital footprint. Can they be found by their target hirers and when they are found, what does their online presence indicate to potential hirers about their skills and value? They should also analyse their social capital. Are they active and visible in their networks and professional community and is their standing regarded positively for referral opportunities?
Proactive brand building requires conscious management of positioning and visibility including the careful crafting of online profiles (on appropriate forums) with mindful keyword selection, copy and imagery. It also incorporates the building of networks, and the verification of credibility via solid banks of online recommendations and evidence of work capabilities.
Many people automatically think of LinkedIn for this professional online presence, as it’s a known hunting ground for many hirers, and LinkedIn does remain a key channel for professional networking. It should be noted, however, that the same principles apply to all talent platforms and hubs. Branding and an online profile is now universally beneficial for all areas of the market, from C-suite executives on Board-talent platforms through to trades people and freelancers listing their skills on sites like Airtasker and Upwork. In the ever-increasing Gig economy, branding and performance track record is becoming pivotal for differentiation and work attraction.
It should be noted that for some people personal circumstances and select professions such government and security may not make online branding appropriate.
CAREER MARKETING SHIFTS:Résumés and marketing increase in complexity.
As careers change in nature and move away from the predictable linear structures of the past, career marketing is becoming more complicated.
In an era that is defined by continual career pivots and shifts, simply updating your résumé by slapping in your last position no longer suffices, particularly during times of change.
When pivoting, or changing career directions, jobseekers now need to unpack and ‘repackage’ their experiences and skills to make sense of their background to potential hirers and to clearly show their suitability for the requirements of the specific role. In portfolio careers, candidates need to bundle different parts of their career to create cohesive value propositions.
This now requires a heavy emphasis on ‘positioning’ and ‘sense-making’ in résumés. Effective use of the top-third of the résumé to succinctly present their value is critical, as are metrics-evidenced achievements across the body that showcase relevant transferable skills and competencies.
Soft skills are also a point of important emphasis in current résumés with research by LinkedIn showing 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers saying that soft skills are just as important, or more important, than hard skills. It seems today, soft is the new hard.
A final hurdle on the résumé front is the continued role of technology in application screening. Job seekers need to be aware of the hirer technologies used to screen, match and manage applicants. These include ATS, Chatbots and screening tools.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are also critical to success in job search. Whilst the sophistication of Applicant Tracking Systems is growing, many hirers still have older systems which may have problems reading content in text boxes, tables, headers or footers, and graphics. It’s a smart practice for jobseekers to have an ATS suitable version of their résumé that presents content in a simple clean format. They may also wish to create a more visually-appealing résumé for times when they know only human-eyes will be reading their document.
Jobseekers must realise that more hirers are now considering their ATS as a goldmine for talent rediscovery, particularly those silver and bronze medallist applicants who came second or third in the interview process. This means “rejected” is not necessarily forgotten. Maintaining positive relationships and engagement with the company may bring opportunities in the future for other roles.
LEVELLING SHIFTS: Changes are levelling the playing field for jobseekers
As the hunt for talent grows fiercer, the job-hunting process itself is becoming consumerised, and candidates themselves are becoming seen by recruiters and HR as consumers.
Tools and sites are now emerging to help candidates improve their work search outcomes as people become more focused on finding the right roles for their skills. This includes new platforms to promote their skill sets, niche job boards and freelancing talent sites, sites like Glassdoor that give information about organisations and their culture, and technology tools that help make the job application process more successful. .
Jobscan (jobscan.co) and SkillSyncer (skillsyncer.com) are examples of tools that assess if a candidate’s résumé is hitting all the keywords for an advertised position.
Unfortunately, whilst tools can help job seekers with ATS, hiring technology is still designed to seek “the perfect match”. This makes it hard for jobseekers with unusual career paths or those seeking a career change to pass through ATS screening rounds and win an interview. Jobseekers in these situations should seek alternative ways to get to hirers.
THE NON-SHIFTING BITS: Human Interaction is still at the heart of job search.
There is no doubt hiring tools and technologies are evolving, but ultimately it is still a human who makes the decision as to who gets the job, and human interactions remain integral to successful career transitions.
As always the fastest way to find and land positive-fit work opportunities is through human connection.
Human hirers will take a chance on instinct and place applicants in roles who may not be a perfect skill-match if they see potential. One of the most popular and trusted channels with hirers for finding talent is still employee referrals. Social networks remain goldmines for warm introductions, job information and referrals.
Relationship building and connection are still paramount across the job search process. Effective research to understand the hirer’s needs, visible motivation to work in the role and organisation, and proof of value at every stage of the recruitment process through relevant career storytelling remain integral to success. This last sentence could be simplified.
It seems, at least for now, that the future of job search remains squarely human.