Here’s a question for you. When was the last time you went to a job fair? When was the last time you applied for a job online? Chances are, you’ve done way more of the latter, and you may never have gone to a job fair at all. Your grandparents might remember finding all their jobs there, but chances are you’ve been to a mere handful at most. With the coming of social networking that I mentioned in my previous article, old methods of recruitment are being left by the curb of the information highway.
Rich Grant, a career expert whom I interviewed for this series, notes that “There’s a current shift happening where employers don’t like career fairs as much, but I hope that doesn’t keep trending that way…It is so hard to get anywhere if you are only getting evaluated by an employer based on a piece of paper (resume).”
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Unsurprisingly as social media is influencing more and more of our lives, employers are turning to technology to source the best talent. Unfortunately, many job seekers, even information-age savvy students like ourselves, don’t have much experience with the professional aspect of social networking. So we keep applying for jobs the same old way…
“I think employers are using technology more, for sourcing talent (job postings, LinkedIn searching) and for evaluating applicants through resume scan systems.” Rich says. “As a result, I think a lot of good people are being overlooked. For example, if an employer uses a resume scanning system, they are just looking for keywords, but don’t see the whole picture of the person. So, the people who get the interviews might not necessarily be the ones with the best skills and professional attitude, but those who do a better job putting the right keywords in their resume.”
Which is just another reason why sticking to the traditional methods of job hunting is a loser’s game. As everything else in our lives is changing with the Web 2.0 movement, it’s not very smart to be using the same Stone Age techniques of job seeking (Okay, I exaggerate. “Medieval” would be more accurate).
Get The Edge With Soft Skills
So what are employers looking for? While the hard, technical skills have always been important, Rich notes that “Soft skills, such as ability to communicate clearly and positive attitude are very important. Many employers have told me they don’t necessarily want the 3.5 (GPA) student. They would rather have a 3.0 student with a well-developed set of soft skills.”
No problem. You’ve got the softest skills while still managing to sound pretty damn hard. But how do you even get a chance to display them? Rich has a couple of tips from his own experience when LL Bean, the former catalogue mega-retailer, went under in 2002. He lost his job and as a self described “introvert”, he found it hard to approach people he didn’t know. Here’s what he recommends for students:
1. Your network starts with people you know: If you approach people who know and like you, it’s easier. Ask for referrals to people they know. Then when you reach out, you have some common ground: “My former co-worker John Jacobs suggested I give you a call, etc”.
2. Be Prepared for the common questions like “So, what do you do?” Rich notes that it’s the worst when you’re caught off guard, and spit out something less-than-appealing, such as “I don’t do anything” or “Hey I’ll take any job”.
3. Don’t be negative, especially about your former bosses. If you’re talking smack about your former employer, it’ll be hard for the current hiring company to envision you as a loyal and positive employee if they hire you.
In summary, Rich has this advice for students: “Yes, grades are important, and if you want to go to graduate school, you will need a 3.0 or higher. But, many employers are more interested in your ability to communicate and in your common sense.”
In my next article, I’ll recount my exciting summer internship that is wrapping up in a few days, in a new series for the Gorilla column: Twelve and a Half Women. Don't miss it!