By Carolyn Bigda
August 25, 2012
The online job search can be daunting in even the best of times. But today, with the unemployment rate hovering above 8 percent and employers receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for positions, it might feel as though you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting called for an interview.
Many employers won't even glance at a resume if it omits a few key words.
"With thousands of applicants, human resources departments need some way to screen," said Hannah Morgan, owner of CareerSherpa.net, an online job search guide.
To ensure your resume makes the first cut, follow these tips.
Use key words: While it has always been important to use industry terms in a job application, today it's critical to have one or two key words in your resume or professional profile. That's because many employers are doing so-called keyword searches to sift through resumes.
So, for example, recruiters looking to hire a project manager might type the phrase "project manager" or "project management" into a database of job candidates. If those words are missing from your profile, you'll probably get passed over, even if you're well-qualified for the position.
"Too often I see people put 'president' or 'consultant' in their job title on LinkedIn. You might be a consultant who specializes in project management, but if you don't have that key phrase in your title, you're not going to show up," said Jason Alba, author of "I'm on LinkedIn, Now What???" ($19.95, Happy About), and CEO of JibberJobber, an online job-search tool.
Generally, the more often you can use key terms, when appropriate, the better. Also, be strategic about where you place the terms, as well as relevant skills and experience. On LinkedIn, Alba says job titles are critical (they help you come up in searches).
In your resume, "put your very best stuff in the top one-third of the first page," said Susan Ireland, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume," ($16.95, Alpha Books), and creator of Ready-Made Resumes, an online resume builder. "Most recruiters move from top to bottom, especially when they're scrolling through a resume online."
Not sure which words or experience to highlight? Look for clues in the job descriptions posted by employers, Ireland says.
Be proactive: Building a smart online presence is only one part of a job search, career experts say.
Even online, it's important to connect with people working in the industry, company or position relevant to your search.
"You need to be promoting yourself and be in those places online where people are connecting and hiring," said Charles Purdy, senior editor of Monster.com, the large Web-based jobs board.
Those places might include Twitter, Facebook or industry-specific jobs sites (for example, tech and engineering pros might want to check out Dice.com, a career site dedicated to those industries).
Keep your messages conversational.
"If you use social media and professional platforms to talk only about yourself, it's not really social," Purdy said. "You also have to think about how to help the people in your network."
On Twitter, for example, Purdy suggests a third of your tweets should be about your career, a third about personal interests and a third about helping other people.
"I manage Monster's Twitter account," he said, "and people who re-tweet my tweets and are actively involved in Twitter — well, that gets you noticed."
Many employers now check social media profiles while screening job candidates.
In a survey this spring from CareerBuilder, 37 percent of companies said they use social networking sites to research potential hires.
It's another reason why you always want to be even-keeled in any online profile an employer might see.
"I often get requests for a job or complaints from people who can't find a job," Purdy said.
"You're just shooting yourself in the foot when you do that," he said.
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